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Demystifying the Rules of Networking

Demystifying the Rules of Networking

By Denise Kersten |

If you’ve ever read a book on job-hunting, you’ve probably encountered a statistic that says 80-85% of job offers come through networking.

Personal contact, it seems, is essential to getting a new position.

But despite the numbers, many job-seekers remain in resume-overdrive, or try to click their way to a new career.

“Our culture tends to act as though we all naturally know how to network,” says Donna Fisher, author of Professional Networking for Dummies.

For Josh Lewis and Justin Mink, both of northern Virginia, networking is second nature. Lewis used a connection he made during his senior year at Cornell University to land a position at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mink networked his way into a new telecommunications sales job that offered him a 40% pay raise.

But judging from the reader e-mails I’ve received on this topic, networking isn’t always an innate ability.

Understanding these five fundamentals can make networking less intimidating:

1. Networking is not sales.

Lewis met his contact at the EPA during a one-week ‘externship’ while he was still in college. Afterwards, he not only sent a thank-you note to his mentor there, but continued checking in via e-mail every month or two.

Though graduation was nearing, Lewis never asked for a job. Instead, he broke the ice by asking how the man’s children were doing on their sports teams, a detail he remembered from their conversations. Lewis kept up the correspondence for several months, often requesting advice on whether he should go to graduate school or enter the job market immediately after graduation.

According to Katherine Hansen, author of A Foot in the Door, Lewis took the right approach. Asking for advice both flatters your contacts and gets them thinking about your situation. “They’re automatically invested in you,” Hansen says.

For Lewis, it paid off. Though he never directly solicited job leads, his contact notified him as soon as there was an opening and encouraged him to apply. Lewis did, and got a job as an environmental engineer.