ask the readers: does networking really work?

I am still sick, so I’m going to call on you guys to help answer my mail. I’m posting a few questions that I think there will be lots of interesting opinions on.  Here’s the first one — have it at in the comments (and thank you)!

A reader writes:

I’m curious about how successful other people have been using their network to find jobs. I ask because it has never, ever worked for me. A few years ago, I even had a well-read blog with a large national audience that liked me, based on their level of engagement with what I wrote. When I was ready to switch jobs, I put out a call on my blog for leads and even offered to pay for them. None came. When I was ready to move on from my last position, I put out a call to my (fairly large) LinkedIn network and reached out to past colleagues for help, with specific information on my strengths and skills as well as what types of positions I’m looking for. I stay in touch with past supervisors and bosses and they do serve as references for me, so there’s that.

But despite all that, I have never gotten a job through my network and I know very few people who have, either. The job I eventually found came to me because my boss saw my resume; same with the job before that; the job before that came to me because of my unique skills in using a particular computer program, though I did know someone in the company. My husband, who is currently looking for work, has noticed the same thing – his network has netted nothing. I’m curious about your readers – have they had luck with this approach? And if they have, what am I doing wrong?

I realize you don’t know me and I could be a horrible person to work with (but I’m really not, though I do have my weaknesses, and the fact that past bosses and past colleagues vouch for me when I need them should speak to that!). But assuming I’m a great person to work with, what gives? Why does the oft-touted “network” thing not seem to work…for me, at least? I just wonder if others have far more success with it and that’s why it continues to be touted as a great way to find a new job.


{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. Bethany Moore*

    Unfortunately, I think the problem is just there are fewer opportunities for our established networks to lead us to because of the economy. I know a lot of people who have said “I would hire you now, if I had the budget…” – but so many companies struggle to even keep their current staff on board, overwhelming them with double the workload to get by.

    It’s not you, and it’s not your network that is the problem. It’s the fact that our options have been slashed, which is why so many are currently protesting corporate and political greed in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

    1. mouse*

      I agree with this; almost every job I’ve ever had (from food service to administrative) I’ve gotten through networking in some way. There’s just not much out there right now, that’s all.

    2. Melissa*

      I’ve had many of the same comments from members of my network regarding wanting to hire, but being unable due to budget constraints, etc. I think you’re right in your assessment regarding the economy.

  2. Danielle*

    I also wonder if networking may work better in some industries than in others? My network is fairly large, but the nature of the work (human services) means there are few positions and very little hiring flexibility because of budgetary reasons or the funding comes from the already-cash-strapped state. So even though I know practically EVERYONE in my small corner of the world, none of them can help me because there’s no budget to hire, the only thing going on is layoffs. Maybe someone in a more corporate network would have better luck?

  3. John Hunter*

    Yes networking works incredibly well. Unfortunately it isn’t as certain as peddling your bike where you want to go. The benefits of networking are unappreciable and not easy to control specifically. So networking can seem like you put in all this effort peddling up hill day after day, month after month, year after year, and yet you never get to see the beautiful rainbow or end up at a wonderful ocean beach.

    However it is well worth it, especially for those that have valuable skills and experience. To some extent it might work just to get opportunities anyone with a decent attitude could get. But networking is most effective, I think, when you have special skills in a certain area that those in the community can share with those with opportunities and you gain an decent shot at a job. The job market is very inefficient – thus networking can greatly increase your odds (if it were efficient this would matter much much less).

    I have been able to get jobs and consulting as a result of networks. It didn’t give me jobs I couldn’t have gotten otherwise, but it allowed to know of opportunities, to be sought out by others, and to be seriously considered when I approached others.

    I have long believed it is very valuable to build a brand online. The return for doing so may well be difficult to measure. But it can definitely help open doors and give you opportunities for jobs and consulting.

  4. Liz Williams*

    As I read the above post, I find myself wondering how the future boss saw the resume that got you your job. Might it have been the end result of a chain of networking?

    I ask because I’ve gotten all my jobs through networking. Sometimes it’s very direct as in I talk to someone who knows about a job opening and voila! they hire me. Other times it’s very difficult to connect the dots. I talk to someone, they give someone my resume who passes it on to someone else who discovers it in their drawer in 6 months and gives it to their wife who is hiring. Or, even more indirectly, I talk to someone who tells me about someone else to talk to who casually mentions a company that might be looking for someone, so I send them my info. 2 months later, someone completely unrelated calls me pre-sold on what I have to offer. As we talk it turns out that several people have passed along my information, unbeknownst to me, until I looked to be the obvious choice to a total stranger.

    I think the quality of the networking makes a big difference too. The more time I spend with someone, and the more interested I am in the problems they need to solve, the better the connection we have and the more likely I am to come to mind when they have an opening (or in my case, a consulting need). That means face-to-face time, and a focus on curiosity and being helpful on my part.

    I don’t think blogging is in the same league as talking to someone. It doesn’t create the same connection.

    My network is at its most vibrant when it contains people I’ve just met in addition to people I’ve worked with in the past. I’m self-employed, so I am always networking. 2 weeks ago, I was vacationing in New York and a man who works for a solar company sat down at my table. We got to talking and it turns out his boss lives in a Berkeley, California, the town next to mine. I gave him my card. I’ll stay in touch with him and make him a part of my network. For me networking is about serendipity and connections that multiply in ways I can neither predict or control.

    While Bethany is clearly right about there being fewer opportunities, I don’t think it helps to focus on that. You don’t need to solve the economic crisis, you simply need a job – one measly job. Keep networking in the spirit of having interesting conversations with interesting people. While it is difficult to stay open and relaxed when you need a job, for me this is the way I’ve found not only the next job, but the next job that fits me like a glove.

  5. anon*

    I think the problem is your conceptualization of “networking.” Your “network” isn’t “all the people you know.” “Networking” isn’t “asking all the people you know for job leads.” If you’re putting out a generic call for help, you’re not being strategic and you’re not exploring your network. Your network includes second and third degree connections, too. Networking means exploring these connections in a targeted way.

    People respond when you ask them specifically for specific advice (think about times you donated to a charity when the fundraiser asked you in person, versus when you received a mass email). This is more time consuming than posting “I need a job” on a blog, but obviously the latter is almost entirely ineffective. TARGET the people you know who have some connection to your industry and ask them individually for advice and introductions to anyone they know who might be able to give you more information on job openings and how to position yourself. Networking is about sharing a lot more information than just job openings.

    For example, I got my current job by trying to meet everyone working in my specific area of public policy and asking them out to coffee. One of those contacts told me that a CEO I knew, who had been helpful in getting me interviews around town, was going to be losing an employee soon but didn’t know it yet. So I followed up with the woman to reconnect. Sure enough, a few months later I got a call asking if I would join the company – the job was never posted and no one else even had the chance to interview. Before that, I got my previous job by contacting someone who worked in a similar office to get her perspective on what strategy I should use to apply to a posting I had seen – turns out she knew the hiring manager and sent an email about how great I was. The hiring manager replied with several paragraphs about what the office was looking for (which I used to tailor my application), and put my resume at the top of the pile.

    Another note: Networking is never as helpful when you only turn to it when you’re job hunting. Make a point to always meet new people and follow up by asking them to coffee, even when you’re not looking for work. Maybe you can help them. I think you’ll find your network a lot more helpful once you become known as someone who is helpful in return.

    1. Josh S*

      Exactly this. I’m about to start a job search in earnest (though I am currently gainfully employed as a freelancer). Networking is NOT a carpet-bomb to all the people I know asking for job leads.

      Instead, I am targeting a specific job market. Next I will reach out to everyone I know who works in, or works with people in that job market. (Along with that, I will reach out to former co-workers and clients. I know they don’t have positions, but they certainly know my work and have a broader set of connections (collectively) than I do.) When I reach out to these people, I will say something along the lines of, “Hi. You know me, you know my strengths, you know my experience. If you need a refresher, here’s my resume. I’m reaching out to you because I know that you might be able to help me. I’m looking for a job doing X, Y, and Z, because I have skills A, B, and C that I believe would make me uniquely suited for such a position. It’s something I love to do (as you well know), and I’m really hoping to have a job. Please think about any companies you know that might be hiring for this or a similar position, let me know about those companies, positions, and contacts so I can apply there, and if you know someone well enough, please feel free to forward my resume to them.

      And I promise this–if your referral or recommendation leads to an interview, I’ll cook you a great dinner so we can celebrate together!

      Thank you much!”

      Blanket-blasting your friends, acquaintances, and former co-workers is only a way to annoy. Just like writing a cover letter or resume, you have to target and specifically craft your attempts at networking.

      Also, networking is most effective when you’ve been working to help the other people in your network over the years, rather than simply turning to them whenever you need something. A network is not something you can turn to in times of trouble–you have to groom it and tend it throughout the years, like a garden.

    2. Sarah*

      This post said everything I wanted to say. One, networking isn’t a send-to-all post, it’s a series of personal conversations. Two, it isn’t just when you need it, it’s all the time and especially when other people need it. Three, it isn’t goal-oriented, it’s relationship-oriented.

    3. Sarah Fowler*

      This was almost exactly what I was going to say. Make sure you’re *always* working on your network, not just when you need a job. Make sure you’re sending them opportunities and helping everyone you can possibly touch whenever you get the chance. Most of all, a mass message or even ‘hey I’m looking for such-and-such a job’ emails don’t count as “networking”.

      Also, make sure your definition of ‘network’ is broad enough. I used to consider my business ‘network’ separate from much of my personal life (especially friends who worked in unrelated fields). You never know who’ll be in a position to learn about a job for you! My last several jobs were connections made by personal friends I didn’t even think *had* a “network”. Even the one job I got after college from a resume submission was actually partially scored by my network because while none of my connections knew of the position, my future boss knew or had heard of all my references, and that’s what scored me the job even though my qualifications were a little below some other candidates’.

      Finally, remember your network isn’t a magic pill to get you a job. Times are still lean out there and your network isn’t omniscient. Just remember to keep helping them without worrying about you and you’ll probably be surprised what will come up. :-)

  6. Laura*

    The job I eventually found came to me because my boss saw my resume; same with the job before that….

    I’m a bit confused about this. Did the boss for the new job see your resume or the boss in your old job? How did they get your resume in the first place? Did you apply online?

    Also, in the job you got because of your unique skill set, how did your employer find about your skill set? If you think that knowing someone in the company helped at all, that’s networking.

    I got my current job as a combination of networking and having the right skill set and experience. But I wasn’t trying to network. I had an internship in grad school and one of the full time employees left for a job at the place I work now. I told her I thought the job sounded perfect for me, based on my background, but I didn’t apply because I wasn’t done with school. Eventually, this person was promoted and she told me that her job was open. I applied the normal way, mentioned her in my cover letter, interviewed, and got the job.

    I believe that knowing her helped me, even though she didn’t just give me a job and I had to apply the usual way and even though my previous experience was highly relevant. At the very least, I’d have never known about the job if not for her.

  7. GeekChic*

    I’m like the OP in my experience with networking and I don’t view it as a great resource for job hunting. I’m in IT and have working in 3 countries.

    While I do have a fairly large network of colleagues that I bounce ideas off of, beta test with and do coding with – I have never gotten job-seeking assistance from them. I have on occasion provided advice to others when asked about a particular employer / area of a country but the reverse has not proven true (probably because I move around).

    I will note that I have two mentors that I get general career and leadership advice from. They have very rarely shown me a job offer that they thought looked interesting for me. However, that was the extent of their involvement in any of my job hunting.

    All of my positions were attained after I submitted a resume in response to a posted job ad. My hiring managers had never heard of me prior to receiving my resume and there was no overlap between my network and my various hiring managers.

  8. Nathan A.*

    I’m getting the impression that it may be *how* the poster is asking for assistance.

    Successful networking comes from pulling from specific people that can drive the result you are aiming for – it’s not something you would do as you would a marketing blast campaign.

    Take this example – you write to me:

    “Hey Nate! I need a job, can you help me?”

    My response is going to be something along these lines:

    “I’m not sure. What do you want to do?”

    I won’t take your response seriously because you didn’t give me enough information that I can pull on that would be useful for me to help you. I won’t dig for information from you either, unless I know you really well. There’s gotta be some kind of thought process behind it… some initiative…

  9. April*

    I run about 70-30 on non-networking job vs networking jobs. I can specifically tell you when and how networking has helped me (it’s the 30). The rest of the time it truly has been submitting a resume to a job opening/ad or through a recruiting firm (in response to me finding a specific job they were the entry point to).

    Networking can always help, but I see it being much more helpful in some industries/careers than in others. It’s not the panacea that some think it is.

  10. Junia*

    For me, networking works best when I’m looking at potential companies. If I see that I know somebody working there or know someone who knows someone, I’m able to ask that person to introduce me to the other person. Usually in those situations I ask for a phone call just to chat about the company, opportunities there, what I’m looking for, and if they know of any other companies / openings that might work well with me. Also, if I’m planning to make an industry switch, just questions about tips and strategies.

    I think if you’re *specific* about where you want to go, your networks could be much more helpful.

  11. Wilton Businessman*

    I think it depends on your industry. Some industries use recruiters heavily and some do their own recruiting. I’ve gotten jobs through my network (before I knew it was a network) and through recruiters. It may not be a guarantee, but why limit yourself?

    And I agree with others that just posting on FB or LinkedIn that you are looking for a job is not working your network.

    1. Lina*

      I think you need to be very specific. You need to speak to a few ‘important’ people about specific positions. Maybe your blog readers don’t have the clout to make hiring recommendations or perhaps they are not among the first to know about openings.

      Anyway, you only really need one person to get you a job. A big network increases your options and maybe makes things go a bit faster. But it really comes down to one person from your network who may give you one recommendation and to get one job.

      I forget that sometimes!

      1. Lina*

        By the way, I went to a career fair this week. It was amazing! A great way to spread your c.v. around and get some new leads. You can read about my experience on my blog.

    2. Suz*

      How do you “work” your network, truly? I have not had any luck with my professional network, either – I feel for the OP. After you’ve made contact and asked about specific positions or general positions, how often do you go back to tap that well (especially if nothing came of it the first time)?

  12. Harry*

    I’m with Liz on this one. It is more about the quality of the people that you talk to rather than the quantity. Chances are, if you broadcast the message to everyone in your network by shooting a mass mail or updating your status updates, not everyone is going to notice. I would much rather take the time to meet up with a handful of people who are in position to help you. I would use this list of ‘checks’ to decide on who to contact.

    -People who are in position to hire someone
    -People in companies or are connected to companies you are interested in
    -Co workers or people you have worked with who may be indebted to you

    Keep in mind these people may not be actively looking for applicants to job openings in their companies. Once you reach out to them, they may look around their internal postings or make some contacts and find an opening suitable for you. I would also approach them asking for advice on what to do about your current situation.

  13. BelindaMDavid*

    It absolutely works and I will use my current job as an example.

    I got a call from someone I used to work with about a position they heard was open. They forwarded my resume to the recruiter and I was called about the role. I didn’t get that job because my skill set wasn’t exactly what they were looking for but three weeks later another job became available that was a much better match. Because they knew me already I was the first person they interviewed (the day I had my interview was the day the job was posted externally) and a week or so later, I had an offer in my hand.

    Yes, I’ve gotten jobs from applying through posted ads but there’s no denying that networking is a fantastic (and much faster) way to get your next position.

  14. EngineerGirl*

    I think that the OP doesn’t understand networking. It isn’t just a bunch of loose connections on LinkedIn. It isn’t about getting names from people or their business card. It isn’t about introductions. Those are shallow relationships of minimal value. True networking is about friendships and semi-friendships (aquiantances). These are the people you’ve worked with in the past (and have done well with). These are people you worked with in classes. These are the people that you have thought about and helped out. These are people that know you and your work very, very, well. These are people that will speak up for you.
    Almost all of my recent assignments have been the direct result of networking. In one case it was a former manager and former director working together to get me out of a very dysfunctional work place. In another case it was a former vice president pulling me in to his new organization (because he knew my work). In another case a teacher from a work related class was hiring. He remembered me as the person that got excited, asked questions, and sent a thank you note telling him how wonderful the class was – how much it helped with my current job.
    So yes, networking really works IF:
    IF you have a track record of performance with a great attitude
    IF you think of others and help them
    IF you make friends with people
    But even then, doen’t expect it to get you a job. It will **help** you get a job if you have the right skill set and attitude. You still have to work very very hard to get the right job.
    And just one quick addendum – the older you get, the more networking is needed, and the better it works.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      Just wanted to explain myself. The more senior positions in companies are rarely advertised, or fill up quickly. There are also less positions open for senior people. So someone seeking a senior position really needs networks to find the next job. It is also a great way to find out about new projects. Those are almost never advertised.

      Networking isn’t cold hearted schmoozing. It is caring about others, helping them out, being interested in others and their goals. If you give it out, you will eventually get it back.

  15. Natalie*

    I am with Nathan on this one. Networking gets results when you personalise your message to each individual contact. You also need to set out your end goal.

    If you know the role you are after and the type of company you want to work for, go through your LinkedIn contacts, view their connections and then target your contact.

    Ask positive open-ended questions, so that they have to answer you and give specific feedback.

    Give clear directions and instructions within your message.

    LinkedIn example:

    Hi Jo,
    How are you doing? I noticed you’re connected into Adrian Banbridge who works for XXX company. How do you know him? I’m trying to secure a role with the organisation he works for. They’re currently advertising a role for XXX and this is the job I want to apply for.

    I want to get as much background information on the company as possible so I’d love the opportunity of approaching Adrian and see if he’s up for grabbing a five minute coffee with me. Can you introduce me and ask if he can spare five minutes to have a chat with me about what it’s like to work for the company? What he most enjoys about working in his role and what the company culture is like? I’d be really grateful for your introduction.

    Do you know anyone else within your network that would have similar roles available in a similar organisation?

      1. Natalie*

        Oh wow, thanks Nathan. I should have also mentioned networking actually secured my current role. I used to run a blog called Work Clinic for a previous magazine. My current employer asked the HR network, “can anyone recommend someone who loves social media and blogging”. I was recommended by Scott McArthur (McArthur’s Rant), HR blogger. So, never underestimate the power of your extended network. At that point I had never met Scott, but we used to comment on one another’s blogs.I’ve now been at Changeboard for nearly four years.

        1. Laurie*

          Me too! That’s such an awesomely worded message perfectly suited for LinkedIn. I’m putting it in my email scripts database.

  16. Anonymous*

    I am involved in my community through volunteer work. When I left my last job (horrible boss…think white collar version of “guess your next coworker to be fired and win a prize!”), people who I’d met through volunteering offered contacts in similar industries and to be references. I eventually found another job (as has already been noted, it’s a really tough time to job hunt).

    So, while I didn’t call on my professional contacts, people who knew me well in a different situation were willing to help me.

  17. Evan Silberman*

    I think networking works. I was in the interview process for a job at a major university in my town. I was applying for a position at one of the particular schools within the university. It was the 3rd and final interview. I was meeting with the dean of this particular school . I walked into the dean’s office and her first words were “I met someone from “named my current employer” this morning and she was singing you praises”. While this isn’t the formal networking we think of – i.e. meeting someone who has a job, or knows someone who does – it was networking. The relationship I built with folks at my current job payed dividends for me in the small world of higher education. I got the job I was applying for an I believe it was, in part, because of the unsolicited, good things people said about me.

    1. Anon.*

      That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing that very positive ‘I got the job!) story. It makes me smile.

  18. KayDay*

    Many of my friends have found jobs through networking, though usually through established networks of close contacts(e.g. former co-workers who knew the applicant really well, or a professor) and not through what I think of as “forced networking,”/networking events or through looser contacts. In the cases where I know the details, they all still needed to apply for the job with a resume and cover letter. Their contact just gave them a heads up about the opening and maybe a recommendation, but not always that. It also took them a while–it took one friend about eight months.

    Personally, I am very shy and cringe at the thought of networking. I’ve found all my jobs just by applying to open positions without a contact, and it has worked for me. I generally focus my “networking” on maintaining contact with people who I worked with before, instead of on building a superficial relationship with someone I met at a seminar one day.

  19. Pingback: Networking != Paying For Job Leads - MediaJobsDaily

  20. Rachel*

    I had a long comment written out and realized it was SO long I’d rather just blog about it. It’s here: But the short version is: I think the OP could stand to change her networking technique. Paying for leads isn’t really networking, it’s a business transaction.

    There have actually been some studies done showing that people are much more likely to do someone a favor when they perceive it as doing them a favor instead of making money. (In other words: people who would have done you a favor wouldn’t then say “Oh, I get to help out so-and-so AND make $50!” It’s an either-or situation and a turnoff for many of the people who’d have been willing to help.)

    Best of luck, OP!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I was wondering why no one had mentioned the part of the letter about offering to pay for leads! While I totally understand the OP’s impulse, accepting payment for leads is icky, and I suspect would undo the whole power of asking people for help, even when you’ve already established good will with them. As you point out, people like doing favors for others, but they don’t want to feel like their connections are being bought.

      1. Jamie*

        The paying for leads thing would make me wonder (if I didn’t know you) if you were a recruiter rather than someone looking for a job for his/herself.

        I’ve reached out to my network (or as I call it “people I know”) when we needed to fill positions…but I’ve never used it to get a job for myself.

        I understand the method and that it works, but I personally HATE the concept of keeping in touch with people for the sole purpose of keeping the lines of communication open in case you need something at some point. I’m happy to help people professionally if possible, you don’t need to send me emails every so often chatting me up as if we’re friends.

        That’s so weird and awkward for me – but I know it’s normal to most of the world so I just accept that I’m the one with the problem.

        1. Suz*

          Thank Goodness you wrote this! I’ve thought I was the only one who felt completely awkward about this. You described it perfectly — I’m glad to always help anyone professionally but I don’t like *having* to keep in general contact with people (most of my professional network I’ve never actually met in person as they’re spread across the country, so it’s not like we can go out for coffee) just for the purpose of keeping in contact. Nor would I feel any special connection if someone was doing that to me. If you’re lucky, someone might remember you were looking for a job but if 3-4 weeks have gone by since your last email, likely they’ve forgotten about you by then (and I’m talking about professional acquaintances here, not people you’re on friendlier terms with).

  21. HB*

    YES, every job I have had professionally has been from networking. When I was job hunting right out of grad school, when I was looking for a change, and when I lost my job this past May, my network was invaluable in helping me secure my next career move. My closest friends informed me of upcoming openings at their organizations, and always passed my resume along to the hiring manager with a kind word. This led to several interviews and job offers! I think anything that helps you stand out among a sea of hundreds of applications is good.

    I also made a point to stay in touch with important people in my professional network. I was on great terms with my former internship supervisor, and she was the first person I called when I noticed a job had posted at that agency. She was thrilled that I wanted to apply, and I know she had a hand in helping me get the job. I think it really helped that we had stayed in touch over the three or four years since I was her intern. We never had weekly phone dates or anything, but we exchanged holiday cards, kept each other informed of big life changes (when she had a baby, I sent a card and a gift), and exchanged an occasional email or facebook message. Low-maintenance upkeep, but creates invaluable goodwill when you need it.

    Additionally, the job I have now was totally due to networking. I noticed a posting for a position which was a total dream job- and I had been involved with the organization during college. Right away I emailed my former contact at the agency to touch base and ask for advice with my application. She no longer worked there, but remembered me and put me in touch with the current manager, and gave me great advice for my application, phone interview and eventually in-person interview! I was also able to exchange a few emails with the current manager and establish a connection with her before I was even interviewed.

    All this to say, your network can be extremely important in job-hunting. This is why you don’t burn bridges when you leave a job – you never know when you’ll need to call on an old co-worker or boss. I also think it’s more beneficial if you can network through people who know you really well. A close friend or former coworker’s recommendation will carry a lot more weight than someone who is a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend or someone you met one time at a conference.

    Finally, maintain your network! An occasional email check-in can go a long way. When you email an old friend from college out of the blue asking for career help, it doesn’t feel as genuine. They are much more likely to be willing to help you if you have taken the time to keep in occasional contact over the years. A strong network does not guarantee a successful job hunt, but it can certainly give you a leg up! GOOD LUCK!!

  22. Anonymous*

    The little bit of networking I did in the past did not get me anywhere. People would say they’d get in touch with the hiring manager at such and such place, and either they never would or the hiring manager just didn’t do anything with the information. Then, the person who I would be networking with would tell me to get in touch with the hiring manager, and then in doing that, either the hiring manager would ignore me or brush me off on the phone.

    I’ve described two separate incident involving four different people.

    I got a part-time job through a friend, but basically it was more of a “stop by and apply in person.” I don’t know if my friend ever said anything to them about me or what, but I got the job.

    But going back to the hiring managers above, at one of the jobs, I learned the hiring manager changed, reapplied, and contacted the person directly – with no one in the middle – and then I got the job.

    In my opinion, it’s a crapshoot.

  23. Anonymous*

    While I haven’t gotten every job thru networking I have gotten most of them that way. I think that something people think when they hear networking gets you jobs is that someone just hands you a position. Not true. Networking has led me to find out about companies I wouldn’t have known about and then I was able to apply. Networking has included talking to people about my skills and having them suggest other job opportunities. Networking has included temping.

    My current job I have because a friend put my resume in front of the hiring manager and said, you want her, this is the person, and they hired me. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m fantastic at the job and got up to speed extremely quickly, but it wasn’t a job I would have known about or been qualified for without her support.) But most of the time it isn’t like that. It is slow and most of your contacts won’t have something for you. But you keep working it.

    And finally networking is about giving more than you get. Don’t expect to have someone put themselves out for you if you aren’t willing to do it for others. Sit down for coffee with someone who is looking for work, help someone who needs it, connect other people to each other.

  24. E*

    “When I was ready to switch jobs, I put out a call on my blog for leads and even offered to pay for them. None came. When I was ready to move on…”

    This right here is the problem. Networking does not work instantly, and you need to be in contact with people in your network regularly, over years, in order to build a mutually beneficial ongoing relationship (that means giving, not just taking).

    If people only hear from you when you want something (i.e., a job or some kind of help) they will see you as selfish and mercenary and will be reluctant to help you.

  25. Anonymous*

    I think it does depend on your field. I am a librarian; I know quite a few staff members in our local library system, which is quite large. They, however, have about 40 less positions system-wide than they did 5 years ago. So, I don’t care how good my network is, they are simply not hiring and won’t be anytime soon. Moving is not an option, so here I sit. :-)

  26. Stacy*

    I think something that is both one of the best and one of the toughest thing about the job search (and dating, for that matter), are that the answer to every question about how to do it is so often, “it depends…”

    I have found positions in the following ways:

    -Volunteering for 5 years with a nonprofit that I love and eventually being in the right place at the right time to take on a part-time paid position that opened up, (job was never posted, I was hired because they knew me).

    -Job from a temp agency that I randomly submitted my information to after seeing an ad for a generic admin position posted on Craigslist.

    -Job that I found on a very small nonprofit organization’s website that I targeted specifically because I hoped to work for them. I had actually sent them my resume unsolicited years earlier and then had followed up over the years by checking their website occationally for openings.

    -Job that I found on, (although it was also posted on Craigslist). This job was in theater admin, which I normally would have associated with a job one would find through networking – but hey – I got the job after applying using a job board.

    Now that I’m back in the job search, I’m not ruling any method out.

  27. Anonymous*

    In my previous field, networking was responsible for all of my jobs. I didn’t even need a resume, because friends would call me up and say “Hey, do you want to work here with me?”

    Then I moved away and switched career focus. Since that time, while I have had people attempting to help me out, I’ve never gotten a job through networking. I find that the problem is more a lack of solid connections rather than a lack of willingness to help. For example, I’m currently hunting for a new job, and I have business partners, family friends, neighbors, and previous coworkers circulating my resume, but since no one helping me does what I do, they don’t know any of the local decision makers that might have positions for me. (My jobs up here have generally involved me being a lone specialist rather than working as part of a large team)

  28. Anonymous*

    Sometimes networking does pay off – even if it isn’t a contact you meet in a professional capacity.
    While playing softball for my husband’s employer’s company team, I met the wife of one of his co-workers. She had an accounting degree and was looking for a job. She had sent a resume to my employer, but hadn’t heard anything.
    I knew the company I worked for had an opening in accounting. I pulled the resume (I found out the recruiter had decided NOT to give it to the hiring manager) and hand carried it to the manager. [that was the only instance I had ever done something like that]

    She not only got the job, she was such an outstanding employee that as soon as the manager could promote her, he did.

  29. Christine*

    I used to think that the OP’s method was the way to go, but I agree that it is not effective. Networking seems to work if: 1) you know exactly what you want and 2) you are outgoing and energetic enough to keep up these relationships. I can say that easily to everyone else, but networking is very difficult for me personally because I am very shy and awkward and have had a hard time articulating what exactly I’m interested in and asking the right questions.

    In the past, I had been able to at least get interviews partly through networking, and my post MSW-job was in-part due to connecting with someone who worked (and still works) at this nonprofit, which has since laid me off. Although I was able to get a 3.5 month temp gig last year with a nonprofit I had been volunteering with, subsequent promising opportunities have not panned out.

    I like the “quality over quantity” perspective others above me have suggested. I have a hunch that I need to concentrate on the relationships I have now and not worry so much about meeting new people. They know me and can see past my quirks (at least, I hope!) and recognize the skills and attributes I can offer.

  30. Anon Engineer*

    I’m on my second job out of school – after 6 1/2 years at the first I decided it was time to move on, but it still took a year to find the second . My network (mostly friends and former employees of the first job) were invaluable because:

    1) After 6 1/2 years in consulting, I knew what I wanted to do, BUT those types of positions don’t come along very often (I only saw 4 during the YEAR I was looking). Having my network “looking” for me gave me a heads-up on a opportunity I’d missed myself.

    2) All of those former co-workers? They KNEW I could do the job, and that I’d excel at it. At my first job I’d taken personal time to teach or help on their projects (not much – maybe up to an hour; but since I didn’t have authorization to bill to that project, it didn’t count towards my “time on the job”), mostly because I LINKED them. If I didn’t like a co-worker, my first question about the work was “what’s the bill code?” – but I’d still do my best for them

  31. Liza*

    All but one of my jobs were through my personal/professional network. First job (post university) and third job were through a friend/colleague who referred me. 2nd job I had to apply, but it was to my customer, so they knew me. Current job was due to a recruiter finding me on Linked In. The only job I landed through a cold application was during the dot com recession, so the economy definitely has an effect.

    I do have the advantage of working in industries where there are referral incentives and as a hiring manager, I will prioritize referrals over cold applicants. I have also referred many friends to companies I have worked at. However, the success rate has not been fabulous. The people who did NOT get hired were not obviously a fit for the positions and the people hiring did not have the flexibility to see whether the candidates could adapt.

    So, there are a lot of factors and the economy has a large effect. Still, keep using your networks because you never know where an opportunity will come from.

  32. anon-2*

    Yes, networking works — BUT ….

    Ya but…

    1) The thing about networking is, you have to do it BEFORE you’re out of work. Do it while you have an active career — while you’re going along, while things are normal. Things you CAN do…

    – let people know who you are, where you are

    – participate in professional organizations. Volunteer to get into those professional orgs’ operations. Offer to give talks, contribute, get yourself known.

    – in the technical field (computers) there are always bulletin boards, how-tos, and so forth, that you can contribute to.

    – if / when you find yourself out of a situation – LET IT BE KNOWN IMMEDIATELY, and keep in contact with your networked colleagues. If you work for a company that services customers, don’t hesitate to let THEM know. They might need your services, and the political obstacle of hiring you is now removed.

    What NOT to do —

    – DON’T go on Facebook or other social media and bad-mouth your company — and don’t exhibit unusual behavior or make erratic postings. A picture of your grandson “isn’t he cute?”, or “ah, my college lost the big game this weekend, bummer” is OK, but “OMG, I really got hammered this weekend” is NOT.

    – DON’T rely on a network with other unemployed people. I got into that, and it turned out to be more of a support group than an employment lead group. Yes, it’s good to socialize. Yes, you may get a lead or two there. And YES, it’s good to go there to vent and feel better. But that’s not the type of networking that will get you back on your feet.

  33. Another Anon*

    I tend to look at my network as two levels — the larger “net” part of people I know through professional associations, having worked tangentially on a project or two together, or having been in the same department. Then there’s the “work” part of people who have seen me in action and can vouch for specific things I’ve done and strengths I have. The “net” is great for getting ideas and finding out where interesting opportunities might be. But the “work” people are the only one’s I’ve *ever* gotten a job through. And since the “work” group is pretty small (a dozen, max) that means my searches can take some time — but they’ve paid off so far in some great opportunities.

  34. Tracy Brisson*

    I hired an entire 11 person team this summer through my network and as a recruiter, I try to make sure that my network is always sufficient in size and skill so that I am able to find people for quick projects when I don’t have time to formally advertise positions. I blogged about how I did this on my company website, but 8 were 1st degree connections and 3 were 2nd. Of the 1st degree, they were all people I was connected with via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and while I didn’t have a recent connection with some, we had kept each other updated on what we were up to over the years so it was natural to reach out and start a conversation.

    One thing I’d like to add, too, is that there is a significant body of economic research that shows that the primary factor influencing hiring through networking is the size of your network and not how close you are to people. I know that flies in the face of what we value about authentic relationships, but it’s proven over and over again in hiring studies that it’s size and not quality that matters. If networking is not helping you professionally, it would not be a bad thing to meet more people and think about how to stay connected with them even if it’s through “weak” relationships.

  35. LJL*

    I’ve gotten several jobs through networking; I find it works better passively than actively. Friends have told me about positions that they thought I’d be a good fit for, and I do the same for them. It’s always mutual. I think “relationship maintenance” is a better term than “networking.”

  36. Alex Beamish*

    I currently have job opportunities at two companies; one of them would be working with a colleague of mine that I’ve stayed in touch with over the years. At the interview for the other one, the CTO commented, “We know about you already”, by way of both a local user’s group mailing list, as well as an on-line community (Perlmonks) for the language that I develop with (Perl).

    I was contacted by two different recruiters from my profile on LinkedIn, and I add to my network as often as it’s practical (but I don’t add recruiters). I also stay active in the on-line community. And I’ve also been a member of the Program Advisory Committee for Software Engineering at a local college (Conestoga, in Kitchener, Ontario) for ten years.

    Networking definitely works, but you have to nurture it.

  37. Nyxalinth*

    I fell into the same trap about networking as many others have. I tended to see it as smarmy cocktail party type schmoozing or at best, being lucky enough to know the right person in the right place. I couldn’t imagine myself getting to know someone in a company I wanted to work for just so I might be able to get in one day. I’m also quite introverted, so the whole stereotypical idea of networking didn’t sit well with me for that reason, either.

    Thankfully, during my most recent bout of unemployment I have come to have a much better understanding how networking works. I still ended up getting the job I start in three weeks through the old way of see ad, answer ad, though.

  38. Tessa*

    As a recent college grad and job seeker, I know how the OP feels, but I think the comments are very true.

    I have a really large family network because I have so many first cousins (21!) and they have been trying to help me out but it really comes down to the fact that there are not many jobs out there. But the jobs people do get are often through networking because in this economy, people are more likely to make good on a recommendation than trusting a complete stranger. Although this might not specifically apply, it kind of relates to AAM’s idea of being a “known quantity”. If someone knows you and can vouch for you, especially if that person understands the culture of the company you will be working for, it will go a long way rather than asking for blanket recommendations.

    Here’s a story for you that might not relate exactly (because it took place during my undergrad years) but demonstrates the power of networking. When I was a freshman, I applied for an internship and although I wasn’t chosen for the exact position, the fact that I had the confidence to apply for a higher level internship impressed one of the higher ups at the org. She referred me for an assistant to the Director position. It was unpaid, but the director then referred me to a work study position for the next semester. The person who hired me for the work study position (where I helped low-income families find free tax prep) then referred me to another org within my school (Temple University) for a position where I taught students pursuing GEDs. There was a lull after that because I studied abroad and kind of interrupted the flow, but when I was applying for a job during my senior year of college, the hiring manager noticed my work with the company from my very FIRST internship…four years ago. This was all from 2007 to 2011, when the economy was definitely in the toilet.

    I ended up getting the job and what was supposed to be a 3 month stint, turned into a year long opportunity. But this would have never been possible without me constantly following up with previous employers and keeping in touch.

    Now I’m back at square one because I am hoping to move from local non-profits in Philly to international non-profits in NYC. It’s a lot harder than expected!

    In my experience and clearly, the experiences of others, having a good network is invaluable. Although I’m still looking for work, I have gotten a lot of great advice about the field and how to get my foot in the door. This doesn’t necessarily translate to a job, but it lets other people know that I am serious about moving into int’l non-profits and that can go a long way when the right opp comes along.

    There is no shame in asking for help, but sincerity will go a long way. If you do the work to make sincere connections, it will pay off!

  39. Pay it Forward!*

    Don’t think of it as networking so much as “pay it forward”. In other words, help people out and they’ll be more likely to help you out in the future. This can go from really low key things like forwarding a resume with a recommendation, to providing free advice on a topic you’re knowledgeable about. I’ve been doing this for years, and recently went out on my own as a consultant. Within the first two weeks of reaching out to my network (who I’ve helped out in numerous ways in the past), I had dozens of LinkedIn recommendations and even a couple of job referrals.

    Treat people nicely and be a friend more than “someone they network with”, and you’ll find that it pays off ten-fold.

    Good luck!

  40. Pingback: Awkward Networking « die umlaut

  41. DBDC*

    My number one networking rule: don’t discount anyone who takes an interest in you and your career. I am facing a layoff from a national non-profit, and an administrative assistant in another state has been an unexpectedly huge help to me. She kept in touch with everyone who has worked in her office over the last decade, and has provided me with some really invaluable contacts local to me–I have two job applications pending thanks to her as I speak right now. So many people would look at her title and think she couldn’t help anyone wanting to get into management, but she has been an amazing resource and a genuine friend to boot.

    I’ve also been in contact with a woman who is a client of my husband’s engineering firm. After chatting with her casually one afternoon about living in her area and the job market, I mentioned the application I had put in at a nearby organization. She called me back excitedly that evening and said she had run into the hiring director for that exact position less than two hours after talking to me (she knew him professionally through a local association), and recommended me personally for the job. You just never know!

    These two contacts may not lead to a job immediately for me, but it has restored my faith that even shy, introverted people like me can connect with others in a meaningful way when it comes to career networking. And these new contacts can now count on me in return. It’s more of a meandering zig zag then a straight path, but every little bit helps. And truly, your network can help you keep active and “out there” if like me, you are facing a layoff and worry about being that girl lying on the couch all day eating ice cream and moping.

  42. Foster*

    Speaking for myself personally, I’ve gotten 5 people jobs at my organization whom I knew professionally previously, and am working on getting a sixth person in. I am careful about whom I refer, as I know it reflects upon me when I do so, but I would say that due to the size of my organization and some other factors for those individuals, it’s unlikely at least a few of them would have been hired if I had not referred them. I think that two factors come into play – a) what kind of reputation does your referrer have at their organization? (to include their track record in terms of newhires) and b) how seriously does said organization take an employee referral. I’d say in my company’s case it’s often a deciding factor in getting a job.

  43. Joe*

    I have never gotten a job via networking, and more dismaying, I have never managed to get anyone I know to apply for a job I was trying to fill by tapping my network. However, I have qualifying statements to make about both of these claims:

    First, I happen to be very good at what I do, and work in a field that is in fairly high demand. So while I’ve put out feelers into my network when I was job hunting, I also have posted my resume online at the same time, and always got so many calls that I had no trouble finding a good opportunity from among those calling me. If I were not in a high-demand profession, in a city that always has companies hiring, I would probably need to network more to find jobs. Working as a software engineer in New York City, there are jobs to be found. (Also, I rarely change jobs, so this is not a position I find myself in often; I’ve had only three jobs since I graduated from college 13 years ago.)

    Regarding the second claim, while I’ve never found someone for a position I was trying to hire for myself, I have helped other people find jobs. In fact, I just recently recommended someone for a job, they got an interview, and they think they will probably get an offer, so I may have one more success on that front in the near future.

    Bottom line? Networking may not help, but it doesn’t hurt, and it could be that one of these days it’ll pay off.

  44. Labhoaise*

    I find networking is great. Although I would not consider using linkedin as networking. I find the best way to network is to meet people at events, anywhere you are out and about talk about what you do. It is surprising how many people work or have someone they are close to work in the same field as yourself. Then from there add them in linkedin and it means you have meet face to face and it is much more effective.

    If you are looking for a job it is much more beneficial to have your contacts built up, although if you do not it is easy to talk to people explain your situation and they may be able to help.

    And I agree with Pay it forward, if you are open minded and willing to help others and do your best for others it will reflect well upon yourself.

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