Academic

Finding Work & Working Your Connections

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Erynn Mayes
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They say that when it comes to growing your career it’s not about what you know, but who you know, and that’s especially true for job seekers.

 

According to a recent survey, workers are 64% more likely to have found their most recent position through networking than a job listing. In fact, up to 80% of job openings are never advertised online, meaning that job listings only represent one-fifth of available positions. Instead, the majority find their first or next gig by utilizing their professional networks. 


But turning an informal connection into a career opportunity is a delicate process. Organizations like Ten Thousand Coffees, on-campus career centres, and even teachers and professors can help get you in front of some influential and well-connected professionals in your industry, but it’s often up to you to take the next step. 

Here are a few tips on how to use who you know to land your next big career opportunity:

Expert multiple degrees of separation 

While many find career opportunities via their professional networks it rarely comes from their closest connections. In reality, most have to continue down a web of colleagues-of-colleagues and friends-of-friends to eventually find themselves in front of someone in a position to hire for an available role. It’s important not to get discouraged by what may seem like an endless web of referrals. After all, each new connection has the potential to lead to a life-changing opportunity.


Connect on a more personal level

Though your professional network is intended to support your career, those bonds will become a lot stronger if they’re built on more than work alone. Finding a common hobby or interest—whether it’s a sports team, band, or postsecondary institution—can go a long way in making those interactions more informal, enjoyable, and help you stand out from the crowd.

 

Don’t be a stranger

If you only reach out when you need something people are going to eventually stop answering, which is why it’s important to maintain a connection between those moments of need. After all, who would you rather have lunch with; a colleague with mutual hobbies and interests who wants to have a friendly chat or one who is calling for the first time in years after being recently laid off? Keep your connections strong in the good times, and you’ll be able to call on more people for help when you really need it.  


Don’t be pushy

Networking is a delicate dance, and being transparent about what you want isn’t always the best way to get it. In fact, you’re often more likely to get what you’re looking for if you spend some time dancing around the subject, only bringing it up at the end of the conversation, if at all. Rather than making the conversation all about you and your career, begin by asking thoughtful questions about the other party, how they approach managing their own careers, what their goals are and what mistakes they can help you learn from. In many cases, those who ask for advice end up getting a job, but those who ask for a job end up getting advice.

 

While there’s more than one way to land a job, studies have found that the majority come from personal connections, not responding to job listings. Properly engaging your personal network is the best way to find new career opportunities while also finding advocates who can help you get your foot in the door.

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