Network Your Way to Work: Personal Connections Are the Key to Finding a Job
by C.J. Hayden
When Cookie Burkhalter relocated from Colorado to Wilmington, Delaware three
years ago, she thought finding a new job would be easy. With first-rate
qualifications and more than twenty years of professional experience at Fortune
500 companies, she figured she would land a new position quickly by surfing a
few Internet job boards and sending out her résumé.
But Burkhalter, an IT project manager, quickly discovered that it wasn’t
going to be so easy. After months of applying for open positions, “I never got a
single interview from a posting on the Net,” she declared. “Applying for all
those jobs was a complete waste of my time.”
When things began to turn around for Burkhalter was when she realized that
the missing element in her job search was the human factor. “Even though I grew
up in Delaware, I had been living out of state for a long time,” she recalled.
“I had almost no local contacts, so I was relying on postings and ads to find
out about available jobs. But by the time I saw the ad, so had thousands of
other people, and there was always one of them who was just a little more
qualified than me.”
So Burkhalter set about rebuilding her personal network. She joined two
women’s groups made up of others who shared some of her personal interests and
hobbies, and began to meet new people. When she let her new friends know about
her job search, all of a sudden, she began to hear about jobs before they were
advertised, and interviews started to materialize. When she finally did land a
new job, it was the direct result of a referral from a friend.
You may not recognize what Burkhalter did as networking, but that’s exactly
what it was. Many women think of networking as circulating around a room
exchanging business cards. But a broader view of networking is creating a pool
of contacts from which you can draw leads, referrals, ideas, and information for
your job search. You can network without ever attending an official networking
Texas resident Maria Elena Duron found an executive job as a result of
working as a community volunteer. “I was volunteering at the Midlands MexTex
Fiesta, and I found myself flipping burgers side-by-side with a board member of
the Austin Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation," Duron remembers. "He asked me
if I had ever been involved in fundraising, and when I said I had, he asked for
my résumé. He forwarded it to the Foundation with his personal recommendation,
and three weeks later I was hired as Executive Director for the West Texas
Your career network can and should contain current and former co-workers,
alumni from your school, a wide range of people in your industry, and personal
friends. Making time for lunch or coffee with these people can be much more
productive for your job search than reading the want ads or surfing the web. In
fact, surveys consistently show that 80-85% of job-seekers find work as the
result of a referral from a friend or colleague, and only 2-4% land jobs from
Internet job boards.
If you have been out of touch for a while with people you already know, don’t
let that stop you from re-establishing contact when you start your job search.
Everyone you speak to will have had to look for work at some point in their
career, and most of them will be sympathetic and helpful.
To spread your net even wider, you may need to start making the acquaintance
of new people also. Every time you talk to a friend or colleague about your job
search, ask for suggestions of other you might speak to, and follow up on their
Attending organized events may also play a role in your job search, since
this can be an easy way to expand your network quickly. Here are some popular
choices for networking events:
- Chamber of Commerce mixers
- Service clubs such as Rotary and Kiwanis
- Trade and professional association meetings in your industry
- Lectures, workshops, conferences, and fundraisers hosted by educational
institutions, community organizations, and affinity groups
- Social, cultural, and sporting events that include receptions or other
- Private gatherings organized for the purpose of meeting new people and
- Job clubs
You will have more success at this kind of networking if you go back to the
same groups over and over than if you keep going to new groups all the time.
Find two or three that seem to have the right mix of people, and keep going
If you don't follow up with the people you meet, though, you are wasting your
time in meeting them. You may think that once you have told someone what type of
job you are looking for, if they hear of something, they will call you. The
truth is that if they have met you only once, they probably don't even remember
you, and it's even less likely that they will remember where they put your
After meeting someone new, send them a “nice-to-meet-you” note and invite
them to attend another event with you or make a date for lunch or coffee. Find
out what the two of you have in common, and see if there is an activity you
Building relationships likes this takes time and effort, but relationships
are the core of networking. The people in your network should be people you
truly enjoy interacting with, because if you’re doing it right, you’ll be
spending a lot of time with them.
Says Duron, "Don't limit yourself to just networking in your industry;
everyone is interconnected. Getting to know a day care director makes sense even
if you don't want a job in day care, because she knows so many people. Waiters
and hairdressers are often the first to hear about coming changes that lead to
open positions. As long as you have your antennae out and listen, you can
connect with anyone."
Don’t expect networking to be a quick fix for your job search. It can take
time for your relationship-building efforts to pay off. You need to put in the
effort to get to know people, and trust that you will see results from it. But
the best time to begin building your network is while you are still employed.
C.J. Hayden is the author of
Get Clients NOW!
Thousands of business owners and salespeople have
used her simple sales and marketing system to double or triple their
income. Visit her web site at