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Posted over 1 year ago

Finding Employment Through Networking

We’ve all heard about the importance of networking, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has even reported that as many as 85% of jobs are filled by networking.

Beyond that, an article in Forbes stated that 70-80% of jobs are never posted. This means that if you’re looking for work, the vast majority of the openings out there will never appear online or anywhere else you may be looking. In other words, if you’re looking for advertised positions not only is there more competition, as sometimes hundreds of people will apply for a single opening, but you’re also only exposing yourself to about 20-30% of the available jobs.

Why Don’t we Network?

LinkedIn conducted a study, where 79% of respondents stated that networking is valuable for their career progression, and yet less than half of them consistently keep in touch with their networks. Another study, found that 25% of professionals don’t do any networking at all.

So, if people know how important and effective networking is, why don’t we do more of it? The most common answer is time. Networking isn’t a one-time event. It’s a process that requires a large time commitment. It means building and fostering relationships. It means making time to keep in touch despite your hectic schedule.

Being brutally honest, networking also means following up on relationships that may never provide you anything of value. Put another way, there’s no way of knowing which contacts in your network will help your career and which will simply fade off or who are only connecting with you because they’re trying to sell you something. People, especially Americans, are impatient. Waiting for something that may or may not ever materialize is a challenge for many of us.

Why it Works

Despite the time commitment and uncertain outcomes, networking has repeatedly proven to be effective. The primary reason is that people like to be around people they like. It’s a pretty simple and obvious statement, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Put yourself in the shoes of an employer. Imagine that you’re given the task of hiring a new associate for your office. You post an ad online and 400 resumes flood your inbox. Suddenly you realize why they say that most resumes are only looked at for 30 seconds or less. You quickly scan and delete a few applicants, but still have hundreds that you haven’t even looked at.

Then you realize that you know someone who works for another company. You’ve spoken a few times and you know that they’re intelligent, friendly, easy to get along with, and looking to move up in their career. Wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier to just interview that person? You might be able to find your new employee without having to search through those resumes in your inbox, which by the way, are now over 500.

The purpose of an interview is for an employer and employee to vet one another. It’s a chance to see how well they get along. Once you’ve been invited for an interview, while you’ll likely be asked about your background and qualifications, the real intent is to determine how well you’d fit into the organization. Your interviewer is trying to determine how they would feel having you around all day. If you’re hiring someone, wouldn’t you choose someone you get along with over someone that would only make your time at work more stressful than it already is?

The people that we’ve networked with in the past already have a gauge on who we are and what our personalities are like. There’s already an understanding about how well you would or wouldn’t fit in.

The other difference is the sincerity factor. Anyone going on an interview is trying to make a positive impression. You’re not going to say or do anything that could potentially jeopardize your chances of being made an offer of employment. But when we network, we tend to be more casual. This gives others a chance to get to know the real you, with less concern that you may be just putting on a positive front.

About a year ago, I went on an informational interview. There was no job opening and I wasn’t looking for a job. I was genuinely there to learn and help determine what types of jobs I might like to apply for one day. While at lunch, we both let our guards down. I wasn’t trying to impress a possible future employer, nor was he wasn’t trying to impress me. We talked about our backgrounds, our successes, and our failures. We openly discussed mistakes that we’ve made and what we learned from them. I had no reason to be anyone other than my true self and that came across.

Hypothetically, if he had an opening at his office the following week, he would’ve likely thought of me. He already knew what kind of person I am and had the chance to see me in a very genuine light.

Where to network

There are a number of different places where you can network with others. For instance, you can attend trade shows, meetups, and other live events. These can be small networking events in your city or major conferences that require travel.

Professional organizations within your industry are another great resource. In real estate, this could mean groups like NAIOP, ULI, NAR, The Appraisal Institute, etc. There may also be organizations not directly related to your industry that could prove beneficial. For example, Toastmasters or the Chamber of Commerce. Depending on your objectives, you may even find it beneficial to become active in local government. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to run for public office. It could simply mean attending community events or volunteering to be on a board.

Speaking of volunteering, volunteer organizations are another great option. Not only does volunteering give you a chance to make a positive impact in your community, but it’s an opportunity to interact with the same group of people on a regular basis. Meeting someone once and expecting them to develop into a reliable contact is tough. But when people get the chance to know you over time, they’re being constantly reminded about who you are and what you can offer.

Of course, social media and online networks such as LinkedIn and BiggerPockets are another great way to network with others. One of the benefits of online networking is that you can connect with people from around the world, people that you would never otherwise have the opportunity to encounter. It’s also provides a quick way to connect or stay connected with others. Instead of making time for lunch, you can shoot off a quick message to keep the relationship going. By the way, have we connected yet? Here’s a link to my profile.

How to network

It’s important to remember that networking shouldn’t be just about what someone can do for you. Done properly, networking is about forging relationships. We can all relate to being contacted by someone claiming that they want to get to know us or see how they can help us, only to quickly realize that they have something to sell.

As already mentioned, networking is about forging relationships and it takes time. Just as you wouldn’t get married to someone after one date, you can’t expect someone to invite you to work at their office or partner with them on a new business venture after just one conversation.

If you’re looking for a job right now, finding one through networking may not be highly probable. Building a network that you can turn to when you need it takes time and commitment. With that said, if you’re a student start networking today so that by the time you graduate, you’ll have a network ready to go. If you’re happily employed, start building your network now, because you may not be so happy tomorrow.

But if you are unemployed, keep looking through those posted openings and job listings. Do whatever you can to get hired quickly, but also start to make a commitment to networking so that the next time you’re looking for work, you’ll have more options.

Don’t expect miracles from networking. But if you’re committed to making it work and willing to put in the time to gradually build a grassroots network, one day you’ll be able to look back and realize that you created something truly significant.