Networking is one of the most important job hunting techniques. As much as 80% of jobs go unadvertised. One has to go beyond checking online job postings and print media job advertisements to identify these “hidden” job openings and apply for them. The most effective way to do this is networking. So how can you make your networking more effective? Here are ten ways.
Begin with your existing contacts
Begin by letting people you already know that you are looking for a job. Whether or not you have already graduated, these people include your professors and fellow students. It’s a good idea to maintain contact with these people when you leave campus for graduate school or your first job. Also include friends and family members. If you have already been working include former and current coworkers. Make sure you trust these colleagues if you are employed and trying to keep your job search confidential.
Spread the word to these individuals that you are looking for a job. Ask for their advice and if they know someone who can offer advice. Contact the people they suggest you talk with to get their advice as well. Ask these new individuals for referrals as well. This process grows your network so more people know to contact you should they hear of a suitable job opening or an appropriate employer to contact given your skills and experience.
Attend local, regional and national chemistry-related meetings
When you do so, focus on events within the meeting for chemists with similar skills and interests to your own. Cast your net beyond ACS and attend meetings of trade associations and other professional societies. Attend meetings related to the dominant industries in your area if you are reluctant to relocate. For example, I live in the Houston area, which is dominated by the oil industry. The Society of Petroleum Engineers and other groups focusing on oil industry concerns have well-attended local meetings.
Volunteer to serve on one of the group’s committees. This is a great way to meet their members.
Join a local job-hunting club. Members of these organizations may hear of a job opening that, while not suitable for them, may be an excellent fit for you.
Attending local, regional and national meetings and volunteering to help is an excellent way to build relationships. Build ties with people before asking for their advice and help. Collect business cards and send these people e-mails when you learn something that will probably interest them. Attaching an article of interest to your e–mail or referring them to information available online can be a good tactic.
Don’t ask for a job
Don’t ask your networking contacts for a job. This can make people uncomfortable. Instead, ask for job-hunting advice and any relevant information about possible job openings they may know about. They are more likely to spend time helping you if you use this approach. And, if you do seem qualified for an opening at their organization or some other firm, they’ll probably let you know the right person to contact.
Prepare an “elevator” speech
This is a 30-second speech about your most relevant professional qualifications in the context of your job hunt. Prepare one to use in telephone calls or at a conference where you are likely to meet people who may be helpful to your job hunt. Practice your speech in front of a mirror and then in front of friends. Keep it brisk and upbeat. Make it too long and you’ll turn off your listeners.
Don’t focus only on yourself
Show interest in the people you meet. Ask questions and get your new contacts to talk about themselves particularly their professional interests. They’ll be more likely to like and help you.
People are more willing to help someone who helps them. So help contacts when you can. This may mean providing information, helping them out by serving on a committee, or some similar activity.
Don’t become a pest
There is no hard and fast rule about how often to contact someone. However, doing so too often can give the impression that you are desperate and always looking for favors. After contacting someone give events time to develop before contacting them again.
When you do promise someone something, follow through in a timely way. When a contact refers you to someone, let this first individual know how your discussion with the second person went. Use the occasion to thank your contact. Informing your contact that you did follow through on their advice is a way to touch base with this person without seeming a pest.
Maintain your network
Maintain ties even when you aren’t job hunting. Then you will have an established network should you enter the job market. Your network also can help your career in other ways. For example, I’ve developed joint R&D projects with several professors I first met at conferences. These have helped advance my career.
John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.