Propel Careers

Propel Insights: Connecting for Careers: Four Ways to Expand your Network 

November 4, 2010 
by Matt Casey 

I was recently on a professional development call about successful job search strategies and heard a remarkable statistic. 80% of all open positions are not published on traditional career boards. That means that every time you peruse sites like Monster, Career Builder and Indeed, you are only seeing 20% of the available job market. In many cases the jobs you interested in have already been filled reducing that number even more. So how do you tap the larger part of the iceberg and find those undisclosed positions? One of the best options is through networking. Here are four ways to expand your network and open doors to new professional opportunities.

Have Agenda-less Meetings Agenda-less meetings are informal conversations. They can be with old colleagues, professors, friends or anyone with whom you have a connection. The whole idea is knowledge sharing; asking questions and sharing perspectives and interests about whatever topics you choose. These folks are your advocates who likely have access to individuals in their own circles that have knowledge and wisdom about career paths and positions that might interest you. Offer to buy somebody a cup of coffee or take them out to lunch. Don't be afraid to ask them for a couple names that you should look up and talk to. The easiest way to expand your network is to leverage what you already have.

Arrange Informational Interviews The informational interview is a more formal, purposeful way for you to create professional connections. Most of the time these people will be strangers to you and their time is valuable. Interviews should be 15-30 minutes long and should address specific questions about a field, a path or a position. At the end of each conversation you should ask if there are one or more other people they might refer you to help with your professional discovery. Always ask the interviewer how you could return the favor in the future (e.g. offer to make a connection to someone in your network, update them on interesting industry events). Remember that informational interviews can create advocates in your targeted organizations. Referrals account for 27% of all new hires; establishing a professional rapport with an inside person can pay dividends for you down the road.

Join a Professional Group There are thousands of professional groups in all interest areas who have members eager to connect and engage with others for professional and career support. The American Marketing Association, for example, is an organization that brings together marketers, across all specialties, to collaborate and inspire one another. A $250 annual membership fee provides you access to industry knowledge, special interests groups and ~100,000 members. You5 connections can be made in online groups or in-person at conferences and events. Consider joining one.

Attend Professional and Academic Networking Events Formal and informal networking events provide excellent opportunities to make connections. Organizations like Propel Careers provide relaxed, open, moderated forums in beautiful venues that make it easy to exchange business cards and engage people in interesting conversation. Colleges and universities continually sponsor alumni-related events in different regions which you should also consider attending.

Matt Casey, Career Coach

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