As a job search tactic, I genuinely believe that networking is a seriously underutilised tactic - so much so than when I see people who do utilise it, in most cases their chances are improved significantly. Whether it's the case of getting yourself out-and-about at particular events (and different types of events), or the way that you sell yourself online (and where/how you do it), here are a few ways that networking can really help you to land a new job - all of which are backed-up from with real-life stories behind them...
1) Social Media Networking
To start things off, I saw a great example of job networking on social media recently that I couldn't not mention...
You can see it for yourself on Facebook (note: I believe it's public, but you may have to sign in to see it). Otherwise, here's a screenshot:
Joel was a gardener who was nearing completion of his Computer Science degree, so he asked the Cardiff Start community (a Facebook group of entrepreneurs based in Cardiff and the South Wales area) if anyone knew of any jobs going that might be suited to him. The response was phenomenal: five people asked him for his contact details, two people invited him to run 'code clubs' for kids learning how to code, one person referred him onto a suitable job, one person recommended that he consider freelancing, and one person recommended that he make use of the career service at his university.
A great response from a bunch of strangers who didn't need to help him. All he had to do was ask. To Joel's credit, he took the initiative to ask the right people by posting it on this particular Facebook group. If he had simply asked his friends, it might have been the case that no one was able to help, but instead he asked a group of entrepreneurs - who didn't owe him anything - if they might be able to help. And they did.
2) Industry Networking Events (e.g. Informal Meetups)
Beyond the more traditional business networking (see #3 below for an example), there is also the chance of meeting people at events related to your industry. For example, in Cardiff alone (where I live), there are monthly meetups for designers, monthly meetups for software developers, monthly meetups for PRs and monthly meetups for digital marketers - to name just a few. They are usually a lot less formal than business networking events, as they are used as an opportunity to learn more about your subject, with speakers offering their advice to the audience of attendees.
A friend of mine is a software developer who wanted a new job. He attended the monthly software development meetup in Cardiff for a number of months and befriended a number of the other fellow developers there (obviously he had to be careful as he didn't want his current employer to find out that he was job-hunting). Eventually one of the other attendees was able to help secure him a job where he worked. The job wasn't widely publicised, as the company wanted to either recruit internally or via recommendations of their employees - which worked out very well for my friend.
So why not go along to your next industry meetup? You never know who you might end up chatting to...
3) Business Networking Events
The last one concerns business networking events - these are your traditional events such as BNI, 4N, etc. where small business owners usually meet once a week to pass referrals to one another and build their network.
I wouldn't usually suggest something like this, as it's not traditionally somewhere where you'd expect to see students going to network. However...
I used to be a member of a BNI chapter in South Wales. One morning, one of the members brought someone along with them as a visitor. Most of the time, BNI visitors are simply other small business owners. However in this instance, when the member stood up to introduce his guest, he said: "this is Sanjit, he's here with me today to see what BNI is like and because he's looking for a job in IT." He didn't outright say that he was hoping for fellow members to employ Sanjit themselves, but it was suggested that it might be a possibility or - at least - if any of us could help, e.g. if we knew anyone who was hiring who we could refer him on to.
At first I found this unusual - it's certainly not a typical scene at BNI, something that I only ever saw once, despite being a member of two different chapters for a total of around two years. But you could argue that its unusualness was a good thing, as it helped Sanjit to stand out.
Truthfully, I'm not entirely sure of Sanjit's fate following on from the meeting, but he was introduced to around 30 South Wales-based business owners, some of whom chatted to him after the meeting. It also gave people the chance to meet a potential candidate in the flesh - a potential advantage over the traditional (but faceless) CV.
What's your job search networking story? Have you successfully gotten a job via one of the routes above - or perhaps another way entirely? Let us know in the comments below - we'd love to hear your story.
Steve is the Marketing Manager of Computer Recruiter, the longest-established specialist IT recruitment agency in South Wales. Follow us on Twitter for latest job roles and links to advice articles: @ComputerRecruit.