Whether you are in business for yourself, working with vendors, contemplating a job change or actively seeking employment, diligent and strategic networking will be a key factor to achieving a successful outcome.

The old saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” is important when it comes to selling products, services and your career aspirations to others. Successful business owners will always strive for customer referrals when looking to grow their business.  Most frequently these referrals come at no cost and are often the most well received by others.  Think about it, when you are looking for an auto mechanic or a hair stylist you can look at paid advertising to make a blind choice or ask a friend who they use and would recommend.

When looking for a new position, look to your network first.  Everyone has a network of associates who are eager to help in your job search.  The challenge will be how to identify who can best serve in your search and in what capacity.  Don’t think of networking as “using” somebody because ninety-nine percent of those you ask to help you truly desire to be helpful. Many people have been in your shoes and know how difficult it is to be looking for a job, others may want to add you to their network and others simply appreciate you recognizing them for what they bring to your networking effort.

Where do you start in building your network?  Look to the best examples of network marketers, start with friends and family.  Then branch out to those with whom you associate on a regular basis and who know you already.  These folks may have worked with or for you in the past, attend church with you, attend class with you, stand on the sideline with you every Saturday at your child’s soccer game, cut your hair, the list goes on and on.

Next look to people who may not know you but can offer valuable information in your search effort.  Realtors, Chamber of Commerce professionals, your college alumni association, professional and service organizations, job networking groups, bankers, insurance professionals and others are what I call Bridger’s.  Not only can these people provide you with information about companies, trends etc. but they can bridge you to referrals within companies and directly with decision makers.

Your target for the networking is to get a referral by someone into a meeting with a decision maker.  The decision makers are busy people but if you come to them as a referral from someone they already know and respect, your chances of landing a meeting is greatly enhanced.  The decision makers may have a position for you, know of one to be available soon, may refer you to another decision maker within their company, with whom they play golf, socialize with etc.

By making a concerted effort to develop your network and systematically use your network to gain information and insights as well as entrée into meeting with decision makers you will have demonstrated your ingenuity, resourcefulness and outside-the-box thinking; traits most employers look for when making hiring decisions. In your meeting with the decision maker you can now sell them on what you know.  Successful networking is how over seventy percent of positions are filled in this job market.  Remember that who you know is just as important as what you know.

The one over-riding lesson learned by most people who find themselves needing to find a new job is that they never again will go without building and maintaining a network of friends and associates.




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