We all know the benefits of social networking when job hunting, right? With so many people hunting for jobs, the focus on using Web 2.0 technologies to get to the top of the resume pile is on the front page every day.
Using every possible avenue to land the perfect job is the smart play. You never know when or where you’ll strike gold. To increase your chances further, start networking well before you have to. That way when it comes time to rely on your network for help, you’ve already established a wide range of contacts and hopefully paid it forward with many of them.
Look at it this way: your career is a 40 year project and you’re the project manager. Networking is part of the job.
Your network needs to be seeded, watered, and grown before you can reap any rewards. The best networkers spend time every week sending a few notes, making a few phone calls, making sure they stay connected. If it comes time to call in a favor or two, they’re ready.
In contrast, if you only work on networking when you’re out of work, you’ll have a much tougher time getting people to respond. In general, if someone is “in your network,” however you choose to define your network, you should be in contact once per quarter or more.
How do you stay connected? For your closest friends and professional connections, it won’t take any effort at all. You’re already working together, seeing each other at happy hours, or going to parties on the weekend. But most of your network will be comprised of former coworkers and business contacts you don’t regularly see. For those connections, an occasional email is just fine. If you can manage to grab coffee every once in a while, so much the better. Bonus points if you can see a group of people at a time, like an old project team that’s still together, or a few different people from a client site.
Even just one hour a week is enough to keep your network fresh, and is well worth the effort, but it’s most important before you need to find a job.