As a career coach at Jewish Community Services, I often stress the importance of networking to my clients. Many resist this suggestion because they say the idea of networking makes them nervous, they’re not good at it or don’t even know what it is.

As it turns out, my clients are not alone.  A study from the Woodcliff Lake, N.J., talent management firm Lee Hecht Harrison reports that 31 percent of job seekers have a difficult time identifying networking partners, while 19 percent lack confidence in networking situations.

People looking for jobs will often create a cover letter, complete and submit online job applications, and then sit back and wait for an employer to call. But with the overwhelming number of applications pouring in, it’s hard to get noticed.

Not to mention, many jobs are not even posted or advertised publicly.  A recent study revealed that 70-80 percent of all jobs are found through networking and networking events. 

No matter how many people are intimidated by networking, the fact is that networking works.  But you have to have a plan. The best networking plans use a combination of online and offline methods. 

Here are some tips for starting yours:

  • Write down the names of everyone you know. Yes, even those distant relatives you haven’t seen in years. Include all your previous employers, co-workers, vendors you may have dealt with and previous clients you worked with.  Also include on this list your friends, neighbors and people you know through other activities.  This is your “hot list.”
  • Start online with LinkedIn. Make sure your “hot list” is right next to you.  Find these people on LinkedIn and send them a connection request. Most, if not all, will accept your invitation. But don’t stop there. If they are in a field you would like to be in, you can “message” them and ask them if they are aware of any opportunities. Pay attention to their profiles. That will give you suggestions for how to set up yours. One of the other benefits of LinkedIn is that you can see who they are connected to in case they know someone who can help you.  And you can also see which groups each of your new connections belongs to and join the ones that are in your field of interest.
  • Once you are in these groups, find events where you can ‘network.’ You will also find job postings and other messages that could possibly lead to jobs you have been seeking. In fact, you can even post that you are looking for position and now have your message in front of influencers and employers who are most likely to hire you.
  • Check other online sites. Did you know that Facebook also has fan pages and business pages? Do a search and “friend” everyone on your LinkedIn “hot list” on Facebook. Again, you should connect with these folks and message them to let them know that you are in the market for a position. Also be sure to check out and join the business pages and fan pages of all related businesses and industry groups. There are many other social networking sites to explore such as Twitter, Twellow.com (the Twitter “yellow pages”), and careerarc.com.

I strongly recommend an eclectic approach to networking. You will benefit from more than one tool in your tool belt. Remember that the key to success with networking is making sure you are connected to the right people, with the right message. People hire people, so start implementing your new networking plan today.

Sherri Sacks is a career coach for the JCS Career Center. JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.

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