Maybe you've been asked about specific job opportunities at your place of business by individuals you are meeting for the first time, at a networking event. Or, you've been asked to join a "network" of individuals in your field, or an interest/activity group and then immediately receive requests to look at or pass a resume around at your place of business by someone on the job hunt.
At several recent events and alumni coaching sessions, I’ve been involved in discussions with people seeking networking and/or job hunting skills, and I’ve had to first make this distinction. So I would like to address this issue for ASU alumni so that we develop our relationship building skills through networking and become more effective job seekers.
Networking is essentially building relationships. An exchange of information takes place and the parties consider how they can help others and how others can help them. We build relational connections, over time, around a variety of interests – personal, professional, social. A net works because the materials it is made of are interwoven and connected to each other at regular intervals, creating an openwork fabric or structure, suitable for gathering. Networking then is a systematic process of meeting people and establishing connections between them.
It is my experience that many people misunderstand the concept of networking and/or its applications. They expect it to be fast and easy, which it is not, and therefore they do not build relational connections. Asking someone you’ve just met for a job, regardless of the event or activity is not networking. In this case the net isn’t working because it has not yet been woven.
On the other hand, asking for work, or job hunting, is a transactional connection between parties, not relational. The job hunter promotes him/her self for a single purpose - employment, to a specific party, attempting to make a connection with the work, not necessarily the people who do the work. The party receiving this message determines whether there is a fit, and if so, various transactions takes place - the hiring process - to ensure the hiring and placement of a "qualified" candidate with the work.
Networking skills and established networks are used in job hunting. As one of many job search tools, we use our networks (relationships we have built) to identify additional people and opportunities that can help us move toward our goal of employment or promotion. Networking can help us tap into the "hidden job market," which consists of 80 – 85% of all jobs.
In fact, our networks and networking is the single best source for job leads and referrals. So, if you haven’t built relationships for personal, professional or social interests and goals consider developing them now. And don’t forget to refresh and maintain established relationships. Certainly the upcoming holiday season brings opportunities for us to exchange information and connect with others, thereby building and expanding our networks.
~ Maryjo Douglas Zunk
Alumni Career Resources Consultant and Senior Career Specialist, Arizona State University