The Job Search


One of the most important business and professional competencies a job seeker can develop is the art of networking. It helps not only in the initial job search, but throughout your entire career.

What is Networking?

Networking involves mixing with other professionals in your industry and in other sectors of professional careers, in settings that can be casual or more formal, planned or unplanned and often involving meeting new people with whom there has been no previous relationship. Networking provides resources and expertise for professionals to share information about various business events and news, updates on various types of industry or area developments which could impact jobs and other interesting facts which could affect personal performances or a business’ performance. Contacts may also make suggestions when they have experience in an area being discussed or could offer other resources.

Networking is about building relationships that are mutually beneficial. Networking contacts begin a relationship by demonstrating they can be trusted by showing respect for the other professional. As the relationship grows, each person comes to understand the other as a professional which would make a networking contact likely to recommend or refer a job seeker.

Understanding Your Network

Anyone seeking a new position, perhaps uneasy with networking, may be unaware of the vast array of resources available to support a job search. Networks are actually quite large, with numerous sources to be considered.


  • Family – You can explain to your family the type of position being sought and an introduction or referral may be possible if family members know of position.
  • Friends – this includes classmates, relatives of friends, neighbors or teammates. Because a relationship has been established, friends may make suggestions or contacts.
  • College or One-Stop Career Counselors – these professionals regularly become aware of openings and if your search has been discussed, your interest would be considered if an opportunity becomes available and the counselor trusts the job candidate.
  • College Professors – reach out to professors who know your academic work well; they may be able to connect you to professionals in their network who have job openings. You may also want to consider using at least one college professor as a reference if you are a current student or recent graduate.
  • Church, Synagogue, or Mosque – in many instances, people attending your place of worship may feel there is a similar set of values and be comfortable recommending an available job opening.
  • Former Bosses or Coaches – part-time, summer or full time jobs, as well as sports teams, will have proven your value as part of a working group. The boss or coach will have direct knowledge of your performance and may feel comfortable making a recommendation if they were impressed.
  • Former Co-workers – people with whom you previously worked, either still at the company or perhaps have moved on, may know of new opportunities.
  • Alumni Groups – graduates from the schools you attended may have suggestions as they have been in the same situation. Networking events, perhaps suggested by these groups, are opportunities to establish and build relationships.

Begin by making a list of possible contacts for your job search.

Prepping Your Pitch

When making an introduction in the professional setting, a common question would be to ask about your interests. Recent graduates may be asked if they have made a decision about their new career search and if the candidate has identified where their job focus will be directed.

Answering this question effectively will help anyone in a job search. Having a vague response and not identifying a focus area will not provide your network contact with enough information to assist you with your search. Perhaps use a brief example or story to help illustrate your point. Most people enjoy stories, which are easier to remember, so creating an answer that includes a short example of how a problem was solved or how a great idea was developed, will be memorable and help create a sense of why you should be considered for a job.

Contacts Count (, a nationwide firm specializing in business networking, has a simple formula that can be used to develop an answer. It involves two parts:

  • Decide on a phrase that focuses on one skill or talent.
  • Come up with an example to provide a vivid picture.


A job seeker wants to get an information technology job such as a computer systems administrator. The candidate excels in determining space requirements and what upgrades a company might need and has just completed such a project as a volunteer at a local non-profit organization.

  • Decide on a phrase that focuses on one skill or talent: Ability to determine space requirements and upgrades
  • Come up with an example to provide a vivid picture: Work at my local non-profit where I analyzed the upgrades needed for better efficiency and recommended new software. I can insure the software can be integrated into the system.

When the candidate puts the two together, they have a clear, concise and compelling way to answer the question “What are your job interests?”:

“I have been working as a volunteer at the local non-profit to identify their space requirements for the addition of a new contact management system and website. I was able to determine the appropriate upgrades and recommended new software. Over the past month, I have insured the existing hardware can support the newly installed software. I would like to find a permanent position to support and maintain the company’s computer system.”

This answer helps networking contacts visualize the type of job the candidate desires. Individuals without current employment and/or new graduates can use volunteer experiences, sports or club teams examples and leadership in extracurricular activities to demonstrate their interests. Hearing this information, networking contacts may be able to think of companies that need that type of skill. Specific and vivid answers will be most helpful.

Develop a Career or Networking Card

Networking cards are similar to business cards, with contact information and a brief description of the candidate’s interests. The goal is to make it easy for contacts, with whom the candidate has discussed their job interests, to get back in touch, especially if another job has come to their attention.

There are four essential things to include on the cards:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • What you do: Information Technology, “Support and Maintenance of Computer Systems”

Including an address is optional but could be helpful if information needs to be mailed.

Sample Card:

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Carrying these cards at all times is beneficial in the job search because networking opportunities can happen everywhere. Cards can be designed using a template and printed on business card stock, which is easy to locate at such places as Staples or Office Depot or online sites such as, provide free cards (there is a shipping and processing charge).

Networking Opportunities

  • For college/university students – the Career Center on campus may schedule events with alumni, business organizations and industry job fairs, as well as chambers of commerce or other networking groups. Check the schedule at the Career Center.
  • The newspaper, radio announcements and business publications for associations in the industry of choice also share upcoming events. Libraries have a book, titled the Encyclopedia of Associations to help find an organization in an area of interest. This book has a comprehensive listing of groups representing a wide variety of industries. After identifying organizations of interest using the book, visit each organization’s website for details about upcoming meetings.
  • Ask networking contacts for suggestions about meetings they attend or groups they support. Ask to attend as their guest. This would offer an opportunity to interact with professionals in a setting with someone for support.

Networking Etiquette

There is expected conduct and etiquette during networking or other professional events that will present you as professional, offering contacts and referral sources assurance in recommending you for a new position.

Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Sharing a conversation that is beneficial to both parties. While listening carefully to your networking partner is important as well as polite, being part of the conversation is essential. The other person will be interested in your point of view and experience and an interesting exchange only occurs when both people are engaged in conversation.
  • Good partnerships mean respecting the other person’s point, which means allowing the other party to complete their point without interrupting. By not interrupting and providing them courtesy to finish, the candidate will demonstrate professional respect.
  • A candidate’s appearance can be a good indication of how the person will represent the perspective company. People will form an impression based on the candidate’s appearance and use that impression to reflect on how they would perform in the job. If the networking event is casual, such as an outdoor event, it is still important to represent yourself as a professional.
  • When meeting or greeting someone, a professional handshake always makes the right impression. Shaking hands, using an easy but firm grip, will display a professional approach. However, placing your hands on the person’s shoulder or arm may be perceived as too forward, trying to dominate or take control of the conversation.
  • It is important to remain at a reasonable space from the person being greeted without crowding. In the United States, standing too close can invade a person’s private space, perhaps causing the person to take a step back. It is even more critical to respect the customs of other nationalities and other country’s cultures, where networking can be very different so it is important to check local customs.
  • To have a contact remember your name, wear your name tag on your right shoulder. This is a well-known marketing technique because most people shake hands using the right hand, which causes their eyes to go directly to the right shoulder where they can easily glance at the name tag. Because 77% of all people are visual learners, this will enhance remembering because the contact will both hear the introduction and see the name tag. Another important rule – remembering names is an important skill to develop because it creates value.
  • Your cell phone should always be turned off during a networking event. When at an event, anyone in a conversation would perceive an interruption from an outside phone call as rude. The conversation with the contact takes precedence and may represent a new opportunity. If you are expecting a call that cannot wait, alert the other person to that circumstance early in the conversation.
  • Eating at a networking event or even during a job interview requires good manners and careful food choices. Make certain to choose foods that are not messy or difficult to eat. Again, the appearance made by the candidate will reflect on their professionalism.
  • A handwritten thank-you note is the best way to acknowledge someone’s assistance in the job search. It is important to thank anyone who helps you. It could be the referral source, the associate supporting the search or the career center professional who receives the note and that person will immediately know they made a good choice with their recommendation. While an e-mail note of appreciation is acceptable, a brief handwritten note is best to explain how their help supported your job search efforts.
  • Be Responsive. If a networking contact requested a resume or other information, it is important to send the materials within 24-48 hours. Do not wait. Prompt follow-through is a way to be seen as reliable and competent.
  • Time management is one of the most respected attributes for any professional, in any industry. Returning phone calls on time, arriving promptly for events and meetings, and answering correspondence in a timely manner will enhance and prove your professional reputation. Being reliable is essential in business.

What If I’m an Introvert?

Being uncomfortable with networking should not prevent a candidate from being effective. There are suggestions to help job candidates feel at ease, particularly if the candidate is shy or reserved and uncomfortable opening the conversation.

Being introverted or feeling uncomfortable at networking events is not uncommon, but it is still possible to be successful at networking events. People who are more reserved, usually listen well and will be able to gather valuable information. Asking good questions is the key to getting good information. By having a few questions prepared, as well as responses to possible questions to be asked at the event, the candidate can be successful and feel at ease.

Planning ahead of the event can help ease anxiety and below are other suggestions to make the experience more comfortable:

  • Attend the first few networking events with a friend or associate to help gain comfort with the experience. After arriving and making initial conversation with a small group, venture off alone for a short time to make another contact to avoid spending the entire time together.
  • Set a goal, perhaps to make one or two new contacts, during the event. Once this has been accomplished, it will be easier to relax for the remainder of the event. If a large group of people is intimidating, concentrate on a few individuals and acknowledge success after talking with one or two.
  • Identify several questions for use when you are meeting someone new. Focus on finding out about the new contact by asking simple questions about how they became interested in their line of work or have they always worked in the industry in which they currently are employed.
  • When given the opportunity, consider being a volunteer at the event. By arriving early and perhaps checking people in or take reservations gives an opportunity to begin a conversation. A volunteer job provides an expected way to get an introduction, which provides a way to seek people out later in the event.
  • Look for people standing alone and make eye contact, smiling to see if they appear friendly. Introducing yourself to someone new as quickly as possible after arriving helps to reduce anxiety. Even if you feel anxious, it’s important to show a positive attitude. People want to be around others who are friendly.

Remember, most people welcome conversation and may be introverted as well. By deciding to enjoy the evening and find ways to laugh, the event can be a success.