Student Success Centre

Develop Your Networking Skills

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Building a network is a key to success in finding a job

Over 10 years ago, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada reported that 60% of all job openings were not listed or advertised.

Today, it is estimated that more than 80% of job openings are never advertised to the general public and, instead, are filled through referrals from employees, moves and promotions within an organization, formal and informal networks, and job seekers who have contacted a company directly.

In other words, more than 80% of today’s jobs are filled through some form of networking.

Frequently asked questions

What exactly is networking?

Simply put, networking is relationship-building. Networking means developing and maintaining contacts and personal connections with a variety of people who might be helpful to you in your job search and career development.

A successful job search begins with networking.  To do this, you need to develop a broad list of contacts - people who are connected to you by friendship, family, professional contacts, social associations etc., and use them to your advantage when you look for a job or when you are doing career research. Think of it as capitalizing on human assets, using relationships and contacts for mutually beneficial results.

Why should I network?

Because if 80% of jobs are never published, you will be missing out on a very large pocket of job opportunities.

Where do 80% of jobs exist, then?

Answer: the hidden job market.

The hidden job market exists because employers simply don’t need to post every position that becomes available.  They can fill these positions in a much more cost effective and efficient way – through networking.  Posting job ads often cost money and going through an expensive and lengthy hiring process to hire an unknown candidate is a large gamble.  Will this new hire be the right fit? Have they been honest in their interview? Will they decide to leave us as soon as another opportunity comes along?  These are all questions that employers are concerned about when making hiring decisions and it is why such a large majority of them choose to rely on their network of colleagues, friends, family, and acquaintances when filling an open position.

In order to find out about non-advertised jobs – those in the hidden job market - you need to build your network.  Networking helps you to establish new and future connections which will be advantageous to your current job search as well as your career. It also helps you explore your career ideas so that you can choose a career area which best fits with your skills, interests, personality, and values. Talk to as many people as possible - it only makes sense that you would spend 80% of your job search time on networking as that’s where 80% of the jobs exist and therefore, is where you will find the most opportunities. 

What are the benefits of networking?

  • Learning career and industry information, job market trends, growth areas.
  • Gaining advice on approaches to job searching, excelling at interviews, etc.
  • Discovering job leads or opportunities that exist in your field.
  • Developing other market contacts who may have more information.
  • Providing feedback on your résumé and cover letter.

Who is my network?

Your network is all around you - faculty members, classmates, teaching assistants, family members, friends, acquaintances, employers you’ve met at a job fair or information session, contacts from your home town, etc.  When you are job searching, you are looking to access opportunities and gain career information. Let people you know that you are actively job searching, when you are available, and what you are looking for. Although you may be tempted to say, “I just want a job”, this is not helpful to you or to members of your network. Be sure to articulate what kind of employment you are seeking so that people can best help you.

How do I network?

Regardless of what outcome you would like from networking, there are some basic steps that you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Create a contact list – write down all the names of people you know (friends, family, teachers, former colleagues, bosses, etc.)
  • Organize the contact list according to how people can help you (i.e. can give you information, can direct you to others who may be hiring or know others who are).
  • Create your elevator pitch. This pitch should highlight some of your memorable skills and accomplishments in an interesting and succinct way and will serve as your introduction when you meet with those on your contact list.
  • Make contact with those on your contact list using one of the approaches listed below.

What are some approaches to networking?

  • Talk to people – everyone and anyone - and make your availability known by telling them specifically what you are looking for. Ask if they know anyone who might be able to help you and then be sure to follow up on those referrals. Ask your network contact for their help, not for a job. People are delighted to help, but few will have jobs to offer you. Arrange an informational interview with an employer and learn more about their company or your field of interest. Ask if they can help and/or if they know someone else who can. 
  • Phone a prospective employer or someone who works in the department where your skills might be used.  Introduce yourself and let them know if someone has referred you to them. If there is no opening at this time, ask for an informational interview where you can discuss their organization, their career, and any potential opportunities where you might be able to contribute your skills. It is recommended that you do NOT leave a voice mail but rather, ask when the person will be available.
  • Write either an email or letter that introduces yourself and explains your situation and what you are looking for. Always keep the correspondence professional. If you are unsure, err on the side of formality. Include your contact information and follow up with a phone call.
  • Volunteering is one of the best ways to network and to strengthen your résumé. Often you can get closer to the kind of work you want to do by volunteering than with paid employment. If you are concerned about the time you are committing, look for volunteer opportunities that fit with your schedule, still allow you to continue with your academics, and are relevant to your career goals. You may be surprised how volunteering invigorates and enhances your studies.
  • Informational InterviewTo develop your network and increase your chances of getting noticed by the people in charge of making a hiring decision, connect with professionals who are actually working in the field. ‘Informational Interviewing’ provides an opportunity for job seekers to learn more about specific types of jobs, as well as gain valuable information about different companies. An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone working in an area of interest to you who will give you information and helpful advice. You may feel awkward making arrangements to talk with people you don't know about their work. However, most people actually enjoy taking a few moments out of their day to reflect on their professional life and to give advice to someone with an interest in their field.

How can I network successfully?

  • Write down key information from contacts including names, phone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses, dates of communication, plus any pertinent information they share with you.
  • Maintain an organized collection of business/networking cards to facilitate future contact with your network.
  • Always keep your information up-to-date and maintain contact with your network.
  • Try not to go anywhere without your résumé, your business card, and your address book.
  • Make sure to develop and maintain on-going relationships with the people in your network so that they become interested in you as a person.
  • Always thank everyone in your network, preferably with a thank you letter, as it is common courtesy to show your appreciation for their time and assistance – plus, your contacts will no doubt remember your good manners.
  • Further develop your networking skills by attending different networking opportunities arranged by The Student Success Centre including: information sessions, career fairs, Students 2 Business Networking event, Business after Five, and many others.