The "Your Job Will Come" podcast, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love to network

If you're unemployed and looking for a job, chances are you'll find your next job not by surfing the online classifieds but by networking.

I know it sounds like a lot of uncomfortable work, especially if you're shy -- putting on a suit or picking up the phone, introducing yourself to complete strangers, and then asking these complete strangers for help. Such discomfort can be a part of networking, but it doesn't have to be all of it. In today's "Your Job Will Come" podcast with WalletPop editor Andrea Chalupa, I discuss how to successfully network your way to a job.

In fact, I did it for my own job with WalletPop, where I write and edit daily. Shortly after being laid off as a newspaper editor, I started blogging about being an unemployed dad, and about my job search. I found Julie Tilsner, an old college classmate, on Facebook. And Tilsner, an editor and writer at WalletPop, forwarded my blog to an editor who hired me.

Another strategy: Shortly after being laid off, I joined a professional networking group, where unemployed pros meet on Saturday mornings to discuss the jobhunt and to try to help each other find work. Eventually, the meetings grew tiresome -- the same observations and pointers were being repeated again and again -- and I wondered how I would find a job if the only other people looking out for me were also unemployed.

But I came away with the idea that networking with those in or near my field can be beneficial and can lead to finding openings. If the idea is to get inside a company through a connection, then networking is probably the best way. There are many ways to be a master networker without being a pest. Here are a few:

  1. Focus on companies where you want to work, and either cold-call someone up high or find someone you know -- if possible, drop the name of someone who recommended you call -- and ask if they have time for a cup of coffee. If they don't, then ask for a good time to call back to discuss what you'd like to do for the company, and ask their advice on how to get hired.
  2. If you don't want to start networking at the company where you want to work, then ask everyone you know -- friends, family, former colleagues -- if they know anyone in your chosen field.
  3. Be straightforward. Admit you're looking for a job, but that you also want to keep in contact so you can learn about the industry. Being sincere includes contacting people often, not just when you need a job.
  4. Offer help. Nobody wants to be used. So offer any help you can -- if there's anything they need professionally from you. I've called people and, after explaining my situation, I've followed up with an e-mail and link to some news in their industry that they might find of use.
  5. Get out there. Meet as many people as you can, and network everywhere you go. Call everyone in your contact list.
  6. Don't wait until you need a network to build a network. You probably already have one and don't realize it. While family and friends are obvious, you also have clients or other working relationships to build on.
  7. Don't forget business-networking boards, such as LinkedIn, or social sites such as Facebook. If you have a Web site, update it often. You're creating a brand, and you want to give people a reason to seek you out when they know of a perfect fit for you.
Not to sound like Tony Robbins, but you want to create a personal connection with everyone you meet. Those connections are going to lead to a job a lot faster than searching all day and night on the Internet for job openings that hundreds of other people are applying for.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at AaronCrowe.net.

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