Good question! Most larger metropolitan areas have a number of networking groups, professional or trade association meetings, or other resources available to help in your job search. A smaller community, however, can have real limitations. Online resources are incredibly valuable. However, whether you’re metro or rural, getting off-line and connecting face-to-face is critical to networking success. So what do you do?
Twellow – Twitter can be a tremendous place to find contacts and get conversations going to network with people in your field, companies you’re interested in, and with people in your local area! Twellow is an excellent tool to find people in each of those categories. Once you are registered on Twellow, go the the “Twellowhood” tab to find people in your geographic area. Follow them, engage with them, and create opportunities to be helpful to each other. For more help of how to use Twellow and Twitter effectively read: Twitter for a Job Search… Really?
LinkedIn Groups – Naturally, LinkedIn is a tremendous resource for finding people at target companies and in your location. However, it can also be a great give-and-take networking resource through LinkedIn Groups. There are thousands of groups related to virtually any topic, location, or field that you can imagine. Search through the Groups Directory to find groups related to your career field, join, and engage with people on topics that can enhance your knowledge and provide potential job leads. Find groups related to your geographic area and discuss leads, issues, and ideas in your vicinity. Find groups related to job search and gain ideas, get help, and build relationships that can help in personal accountability during your search.
If you aren’t able to find a LinkedIn Group that’s local to you… start one! Anyone can initiate a group, then send invitations to others in your area that you find through a location People Search. If you’re interested in a local group, chances are many others are as well, and you would be developing a resource that helps you and serves many others at the same time.
Facebook – Without too much discussion… certainly all that applies to LinkedIn, works on Facebook as well. Although it can be more difficult on Facebook to figure out what kind of career people are in, you can find people locally, create groups, and perhaps refer them to your LinkedIn Group.
Take it off-line! – Finding appropriate contacts, making an introduction, and engaging online is a terrific way to connect with people that wasn’t possible even a few years ago. Social Media sites have been a ‘game-changer’ to a job search networking process. However, relationships, both personal and business, are still most effectively developed face-to-face.
Through Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook arrange a job networking event locally that can add value for everyone. Invite other job seekers, potential hiring managers, HR representatives from local companies, and recruiters. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find an appropriate facility for the event. A church, community center, YMCA, school, or hotel will likely be glad to offer their facility in order to be a helpful resource for jobseekers. Many companies encourage their Managers and HR Staff to participate in such events because of the good will it forms, the benefit to the community, and naturally, the ability to find valuable potential employees.
If you can identify enough people all in the same field or industry as you, it’s often quite effective to focus on people with similar backgrounds. Networking can be most effective with others in your field. When you have several people all seeking similar opportunities, potential contact and lead referrals are more targeted. A position that doesn’t fit one person may be a great fit for another. I recently heard a term I like for this: “Coopetition”. Cooperation + Competition = Coopetition! There are many benefits in networking with others in your field… not the least of which is seeing who your competition likely is at many of the interviews you go to!
Once you have a number of people, you can also arrange a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly networking meeting to continue the sharing process. Your meetings can include sharing job search ideas. Perhaps bringing in speakers that can add expertise for you; often HR Pros or Recruiters can be good resources to be able to relate what works and what doesn’t when pursuing opportunities. Share contacts, leads, and company information.
Online tools are a great place to start, however, taking your efforts beyond the screen will make the difference to get you to your next job!
Harry Urschel has over 20 years experience as a technology recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives and writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search.