Networking As A Job Search Strategy
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How To Use Networking As A Job Search Strategy

How to find a job through career or professional networking

Identifying and contacting potential employers through the networking process is still a very successful job search strategy in many industries

What is Career / Professional Networking?

Networking is used for many business and social purposes. In job search, career networking / professional networking, is the oldest method used to find a job in the hidden job market (unadvertised jobs). The hidden job market can be accessed through leads from your contacts who are referred to as your network.

Your network consists of people, who can link you to a job opportunity by providing you with valuable job search information in the following areas:

  • By providing company or business information

  • By telling you what is going on in your industry

  • Providing referrals to people who may be able to help you

  • Give you leads on jobs coming up in the future

  • Advise you on what skills or qualities the employer values

Who are people in your network?

These are people you could have met through your job (ie wholesalers or suppliers you dealt within a regular basis, friends and relations, people you know through sporting bodies, or other recreational activities and of course, mates down the pub. Other professional networks are industry groups or affiliations, alumni associations, rotary clubs etc.  In fact, when you start your career you should become be a paid up member of you industry association or affiliation and attend all events if possible to build and retain your network.


If you use career / professional networking as a job search strategy, you do not have to ask people in your network they know of any job openings. You ask for advice to assist you in your job search.


So don't be afraid of networking.  People are generally very flattered to be asked for career advice and are generally more helpful than you would expect, as long as you make it clear you are not asking for a job or even asking to be referred to a job. 


Is there proof that career or professional networking works?

The professional consensus in the recruitment industry is that between75%-80% of jobs are thought to be in the Hidden Job Market.  That is, they are never advertised and are filled through direct referrals from employees, from job seekers themselves or employment agencies. There are many reasons why employers will take referrals from others, and people who have made prior contact.  For example,

  • The expense of advertising in terms of money and loss of production hours and tying up their phones, which may result in lost business.

  • Some employers do not have the skills to do their own recruitment.

  • Many employers are so busy they put it off, and staff may be doing overtime, which can leave to discontent in the workplace.

  • Employers will often take referrals from their own staff because employees/former employees generally only refer people who they know are reliable and will not let them down. 

  • People who use career networking and cold calling effectively to look for work, are considered to be more motivated and pro-active. So if someone comes along at the right time they will consider you for the job. 

My personal experience in job search training confirms this career or professional networking figure, although the jobs were filled by less skilled people – usually blue-collar workers. In nearly every workshop between 90% - 100% of participants found their last job through someone they knew or through friends of friends.

Other areas where people successfully use networking to find a job are in technical areas such as IT and engineering and in industries such as mining and construction, and transport.

There is a great deal of resistance to planned career / professional networking, even among people who traditionally find a job through this source.  They really don't understand how to use networking as a job search strategy.  It is not just good luck - you may have to work at it. It is a very challenging exercise and takes a great deal of effort to get going. Once you have made one or two networking or cold calling phone calls by following the advice given in this section, or have written two networking letters, it becomes easier. See sample job applications

The reluctance to network for jobs, is generally because job seekers are not considering their network in a broader context. Most people say, “the people I know can’t help me”.  That may be true, however, what if someone contacted you for advice would you try and give them ideas?  You may not know anything, but maybe you know someone that can help.

Don’t forget, people in your network also have a network of friends, family, neighbours, former colleagues and supervisors.   People you meet casually have friends who may have knowledge that can help you. You do need to guide them to see that they do have a lot of people within their own network, by framing your approach in the right way.  We will discuss this later. 

Develop your networking list.

The first step in to write a list of people in you know. This will assist you to recognise people in your network by placing them into categories, i.e. former colleagues, fellow students, relations etc. When you have brain stormed the categories of people you can contact, make a list of individuals in each of these categories. Your networking list will gradually expand as you become more confident:  Keep good records.

How to use networking as a job search strategy

Before you start to contact people you have identified as your career networking list, you need to be clear on what information you want from them.  What is your objective?

 Ø      You need to prepare what you are going to say - pen and paper ready.

Ø      If phoning a person at work, ask if is convenient to speak – say you will only be a few minutes.  Don’t be evasive. Say you want their advice.  Be prepared to ring back at a more convenient time.  Keep your diary handy.

Ø      Introduce yourself within the context of your relationship (i.e. I used to work with you at Woolworths).  Engage in a bit of small talk and then get to the point of your call.

Ø      Don’t ask for a job or even hint that you expect them to refer you to a job.    

Ø      Be honest and say that you are now unemployed (or have been retrenched) and ask them if they have any suggestions of which companies (or where) you can try. Also ask if they have any contacts in your line of work that may know about your industry.  If re-entering employment or changing career direction you may also ask them to look at your resume and suggests possible career areas you may not have though obvious: Other people can often identify areas of employment you hadn't identified.

 Ø    Another useful approach is to say that you are just doing some job search planning. For example, you may say “you may not know that I have been out of work for a period and I have been looking for work.   I just want to know if you know anything about what is happening in the Oil and Gas Industry at the moment.  Do you know of any projects coming up?”  Or you may say, “Do you know anyone in the field I could talk to?” This is just an example.  It may be the building Industry or any other identified field.  Don’t forget to remind them of your occupation and qualifications.

Ø      Your approach will depend upon the area of work you are looking for. For example, in you last job you may have dealt with suppliers. These people are a great career networking source.  Contact them,  because they get to know if a company they sell to or have a service contract with has a job opening, or know who has won a contract for work in your field.

Ø     When you are speaking to people over the phone or in person, Listen carefully to what is being said and make notes. Use active listening skills, i.e. say “yes” “ I understand”  “ok” or  “ah- huh”. Naturally you will have your own style of active listening.

 Ø      If given a contact name, confirm details carefully. You won’t get a second chance.

 Ø    Thank them for their advice and say “If you do hear of anything can you let me know?” Give your contact details. This approach will allow them to think it over. They may ring you later to let you know about a job.   

Ø      Always follow up as soon as possible and make a record of your contact outlining your discussion. You will forget. If you get a positive lead don’t forget to thank the person who referred you and advise them of the outcome.

Good record keeping is crucial.  

Approaching people who you have been referred to by someone in your career network

(A) Approach by phone


 ·         Introduce yourself. Say who referred you or who suggested you ring.  ·         Ask if they have a minute.

 ·         Depending upon response, state briefly that John/Jill thought you

       might know what was happening in the X industry, for example.

 ·         Let them know what skills you have.

 ·         Ask them if they know anyone else who might be able to provide you

       with information. Ask if you can use their name as a referral.

(B) Approach by letter

The aim of a referral letter is to gain a face-to-face meeting.  In order to do this you must ask for a meeting and you must be clear on the information you expect to be supplied.  The following example is aimed at gaining information about what is happening in a specific industry.

  • Ring to check the address of the organisation and title or role of the person you wish to speak to.  I have many examples where a company moved premises although the number remained the same, or had been diverted and the jobseeker went to the wrong address. Your contact may have outdated information and/or they may still be listed at the same address and have moved within the same area.

  • Be clear on your objective. It may be that your objective is to find out what skills are needed in particular job, or you may be wanting a career change and want to know more about a specific industry. Whatever your needs you must be must be clear on what you want from the contact and your contact must also know what you want.

Opening statement

Make reference to the person who referred you (you must gain permission for this)

 e.g. “John James suggested I contact you.  He said you had a very good knowledge of the mining industry and generally know what is happening.”

 State briefly your occupation and the type of work you are looking for.

 “I am a Plant Maintenance Engineer and have just completed a contract with Western Mining” and I want to go back on site.  John said you would probably know what projects are coming up.”

 Ask for a face-to-face meeting

  • "I would like to meet with you soon. I will appreciate 15 minutes of your  time".

  • "I will give you a ring early next week and arrange a convenient time to meet.  Your advice will be appreciated and I look forward to meeting you".

  • Ensure you follow within about 2-3 days of the letter arriving.  You may however, have difficulty getting to the person and may have a problem getting past the Receptionist/Telephonist. 

  • Do not leave a message. Say that the person you want to speak to is expecting your call. 

  • When you reach your contact suggest some possible dates.  Don’t just say “anytime”.

  • The sales approach nearly always works. “What day Tuesday or Thursday”, get a day and then say “morning or afternoon.”

See cold calling letters that can be used for career networking in sample job applications and links below.

Meeting face to face                                                

You have the meeting and you know your objective. Be prepared for this interview and have questions ready. Be prepared to take notes.  

However, a face-to-face interview can lead to more than just information.  If the person likes you he/she may refer you to a job at a later date.  He/she may even go so far as to arrange a meeting that will lead to a job.

You have the opportunity to use all your interpersonal skills to make an impression.  You must conduct yourself in the same manner as you would in an interview.  Dress and communicate as though it is a job interview. Don't give any 'off the record" comments.  That is, don't give away your previous employer's confidential information and don't criticise anyone.

Don’t go over the  time allocated unless the contact states it is ok to do, and don’t forget to ask for another referral.

This is an example of the basic theory. Ideally you will write an action plan.

Prospecting letters for cold calling and career networking.


Cold calling letter to an employment agency

Basic cold calling letter to an employer - lower skills level

Cold calling letter to an employer - graduate Search/Networking.html

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On this page

What is career / professional networking?

How to use networking as a job search strategy.

Approaching people in your network

Prospecting / unsolicited letters for cold calling / career networking.



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