Networking is Key to Successful Job Search
“I’ve Searched the Web Thoroughly And Still Can’t Find a Job, How Else Can I Look?”
Year in and year out, since the advent of the Internet, as I work with students looking for work, I have
been asked this question. The Internet seems to make life so simple. Vast amounts of information at our
finger tips. Hundreds, if not thousands, of search engines, company websites and job boards jobs, jobs,
jobs are available at the click of a mouse. But, did you know that many posted jobs are actually
duplicates and you can easily apply several times to the same job…And even more frustrating is
the fact that some jobs are only posted in order to gather resumes. Yet, applying for these jobs
seems much easier than actually LANDING them. Why is that? And, how should you really be looking?
The answer to all of the above requires more vigorous job searching and learning the how to’s of
“Networking.” And remember that since late in 2008 the significant increase in numbers of people
seeking new positions has completely overloaded most HR Professionals everywhere to the
point where they have little time to respond to applicants.
Can I Ask a Favor of You?
Job-hunting is essentially about going out and asking people a huge favor: Would you HIRE me?
Translation: Would you stake your personal reputation on me, and my job performance or my future
potential? If you think about it, that is what you are asking a hiring body to do.
With That In Mind
75% of all jobs never see the light of day in electronic or newspaper want ads. The majority of job
openings exist in the “hidden job market” where word of mouth is the way in which these openings are
filled. It works like this. The job originates in any company or organization with the department or an area
that has a need. Who knows about this need? The manager, director or otherwise recognized leader and
hiring authority in that area. Now, when this leader knows their area is going to have a need, they use
every tool at their disposal to find qualified people. The first tool will invariably be their “network.” They
will start to talk about their need to professional colleagues, subordinates, family, and friends. Sure, they
will alert the Human Resource Department, who will in turn post the position on-line and in the
newspapers. But, what source is going to be most trusted?
People Trust People They Know
Think about your own personal relationships. Who would you be more inclined to put your trust in;
someone you know, even someone who knows someone you know, or someone you just met off the
street (or the Internet)? Remember, in hiring a person, the hiring authority is making a big commitment of
time and money to the new hire. Perhaps, they are, personally, going to spend a lot of time training that
person. Do you like to make big commitments to people you don’t know?
So, How Do I Get To Know People?
“How do I, as a job seeker, get to know people with the authority to hire?” First look to your own
“Network.” What family members, friends, professors, graduate assistants, classmates, or community
leaders (your family doctor, lawyer, or accountant) can you begin to tell about your need for employment,
and ask who they know who might be helpful in finding employment? Make a list of all of these potential
contacts. Use of social and business networks can often provide additional information about the
people in your network and the people they know. These networks are also an easy way to
advertise your business accomplishments for strangers to check your skills (Never post
personal data other than an email address).
How to Get Started and What to Ask For
Once you have your list, you can begin to contact people. But, you are not contacting them for a JOB.
You are contacting them for information!. You want to contact people and do what is called an
“Information interview” (And it might seem like a total waste of time in the mind of a practical, efficiency
minded engineer – but, read on.)
Call the person saying, “I am networking with business (or engineering, whatever is appropriate)
professionals such as yourself to learn more about opportunities in the field.” You can also initiate
contact by writing a cover letter and include your resume. (You can open your “Networking Letter” with,
“Enclosed is a copy of my resume. I am networking with business (or engineering) professionals….)
Close your letter saying that you will contact them on a certain date and would like to arrange an
“Information Interview.” Then, follow up with a phone call to do just that. To conduct an “Information
Interview” ask the person for 30 minutes of their time, in person, to discuss the following items. If you are
conducting a long distance job search, then arrange a time when you can both have an un-interrupted
conversation over the telephone.
During any “Information interview” you want to gain information by asking open-ended and interesting
questions…Open-ended questions are designed to get the other person talking and sharing
information and interesting questions are those that are not normally asked by most people and
are more enjoyable for the other person to respond to. Your questions can be put in three broad
1. General knowledge of the field, your major, what kinds of positions you are qualified to fill at this
time, what the job market is looking like, etc. Whatever you need to know.
2. A critique of your resume. Please look at my resume, can you tell me what you like about it, what
don’t you like about it? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What on my resume
would make you want to call me in for an interview?
3. Do you know three other people in the field with whom you would recommend I talk?
Those three new names now become part of your network. Within 24 to 72 hours of the “Informational
Interview” make sure you send a “Thank You” letter to your contact.
Training and Practicing for Interviews
Practice makes perfect! Many well-qualified candidates and applicants never get a job offer
because they failed to sell themselves effectively. It is usually true that without practice we fail to
make the best impression. As with any athlete…practice is key to success. Make a list of the
questions you plan to ask and the responses you want to give…and then rehearse regularly with
another person, friend or associate…And listen to how you actually sound and the words you
use. It is very appropriate to write and practice responses including body language,
pronounciation, and volume.
Even the greeting and initial hand and eye contact are critical to how the interview will begin.
Initial contact via phone requires your phone voice to be positive and confident…Others can hear
your confidence! Consider that the ‘decision to hire’ may be made very quickly…maybe within
five minutes of the initial contact, phone or in person!
Reading is important! Read variety of books including “how to interview techniques” and
‘selling yourself”…but also include history and novels. Be able to talk on a number of subjects
and demonstrate that you care about the world and that you are culturally well-rounded.
Building and Establishing Rapport During Interviews
Be an active and positive listener! When you hear something exciting, be sure to compliment
and reinforce what you are hearing without being repetitive. No one is expected to like
everything they hear nor is everyone completely skilled in all areas. Find out about the
interviewer…Where they come from? How long with the company? What is their career? What
do they like most about what they do?
Use your smile! Affective use of a smile can build rapport very quickly. A smile relaxes you and
more importantly makes the interviewer instantly more comfortable. An interviewer who is
comfortable will share more information. A smile can be heard over the phone.
Share personal information that illustrates some of your personal accomplishments. You can
talk about your decision to follow a career including family influences…Hardships including
financial difficulties…Athletic achievements based on commitment to training and discipline…
Leadership in clubs and organizations…And community service.
Make a List, Check It Twice, Remember Everyone – Especially the Nice
Create a “Networking” template for yourself, which lists the name, title, organization, your relationship,
and the date and type of contact you made with the person. Include a “Follow up” category, and note
when you last made contact with them (Note “Thank you” letters you sent, a shared success story, etc.)
As you make progress, it is good to call your contacts and keep them informed of your progress.
Remember too, that as you ask people for favors, let them know they can count on you for help if they
need it – and mean it. Keeping a written record of your contacts, positive or negative is critical to
honest evaluation of your own efforts which could lead to changes in approach, a different
strategy, and a follow up tool that could be valuable many years into the future.
Major “Networking” Resources
How do you build your network beyond the initial contacts friends and family can provide? If you have
already attended and met the employers at the Engineering Tribunal Career Fair
(http://www.tribunal.uc.edu/careerfair/) in October 2007, you are off to a good start. Follow up with
them as they asked. But, even if nothing immediate came out of the connection, follow up in two months
or so to renew the connection. Ask if they know of any one in other companies they could suggest you
talk to. Look into these other sources:
The UC Alumni Association
Visit http://www.alumni.uc.edu/ or contact either Teresa Horton, Member Services Manager,
Membership and Sponsorships,(Teresa.Horton@uc.edu) or Kara Gunsch, Program Director
Cincinnati Region Alumni Programs, Student Outreach Programs and Major Events
Kara.Gunsch@uc.edu) at (513) 556-4344 to learn about the Alumni Association and what it can do for
you. Joining the “inCircle UC’s Official Alumni On-line Community (http://www.alumni.uc.edu/records/
inCircle.htmla) is the best way to find and connect with UC Alumni from all over the city, state of Ohio,
the country, and even the world. These Alumni have shared your life experience as a “Bearcat.”
Wherever you want to go, there is a fellow Bearcat in that corner of the world who can help.
Do you belong to an engineering student professional association? If not, there are many good reasons
to join. In particular, they can introduce you to parent associations and directories of members who can
become part of your network. Learn more about and join UC’s student organizations at the following….
Whether you get involved in an organization for professional, academic, or service related activities,
they are all about connecting with people who share an interest, ability, or value. They all can be a
great career resource.
Business Research Resources Using the UC Library
Before you begin to approach people for information, build a list of companies of interest. Clicking on
http://www.uc.edu/career/Students/business_research_resources.htm to find instructions on CDC’s
webpage which help you access the UC Library’s on-line databases and resources providing detailed
company information about prospective employers and assistance in finding detailed information about
their productivity, contacts, etc.
The Career Development Center
Want more ideas about networking or any aspect of your career or job search? See Jim Novak, your
CDC Liaison to the College of Engineering in Room 140 University Pavilion. His official office hours are
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Call (513) 556-3471 and the CDC Receptionist will
make an appointment for you. You can e-mail Jim at email@example.com with a quick question. But,
please come by and introduce yourself. Meeting people face-to-face is the best way of establishing the
bonds that lead to strong “network” alliances.