Not all jobs are advertised, and it is suprising how often graduates find jobs through contacts they have made themselves.

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Networking is something we do naturally almost every day of our lives. We meet friends through other friends and very quickly we have built a network of contacts. The principle is exactly the same when it comes to developing and establishing a network to find out about jobs.

Networking is powerful and important job hunting and vacancy research technique. The job hunting guide, "What Color is Your Parachute?" by Richard N. Bolles, quotes a study that showed over 30% of people using the technique found their job using it.

It can be particularly useful where it helps you to find jobs at the earliest stages - where a manager is identifying the need for new graduate level staff and has not yet advertised positions. If you can find a graduate job at this stage, then you may be the first (and possibly only) applicant for the role. The job can often be fluid at this early stage - you may have the opportunity to shape it so that it suits you perfectly.

Many senior positions are filled using networking and there is nothing to say that it cannot be the same with entry level graduate roles.

Why networking works

Recruiters like networking. After internal promotion it is often seen as the most reliable and cost-effective strategy for hiring. The benefits to recruiters of hiring you through networking include:

  • You come personally recommended by someone the recruiter knows and trusts.
  • They can see you quickly and without waiting for intermediaries to act.
  • After the interview they can make a decision without having to do the time consuming work of writing a job description and preparing and placing an advert.

For you the graduate jobseeker, the benefits of this strategy are:

  • You get access to jobs that never get advertised
  • The recruiter can interview you for the job ahead of the competition
  • You have a greater ability to shape the job on offer
  • You are increasing the likelihood of getting a job as the statistics are in your favour - you might have a 1:3 of getting the job before you even meet the recruiter, whereas using a traditional method, perhaps responding to an advert, you may face odds of 1:100 upwards.
  • It gives you the opportunity to talk to key people, to research the market and understand where the next opportunities might lie.

How to start your networking

Networking is about building relationships with people, asking their advice and sharing information with them where you can. It is about asking them who you should contact next and asking their permission to use their name in making contact.

Start with ex-colleagues, mentors and managers you have known, friends, careers staff at schools or universities, teachers or professors, parents and parents friends. Think about alumni networks you could tap into. Think about all the people you know who may know someone who has a job.

Also, think about people who know the industry you are interested in - while they are often busy, journalists and writers in industry magazines can often be helpful and can offer good advice.

Contact these people - let them know that you are looking for a job. Say that you understand that they might not have one on offer, but ask if they know of any or know anyone who might have one. If the person you are talking to recommends someone, ask their permission to use their name when you make contact ("John Smith from ABC Limited suggested I called you").

Now call these people and ask them the same thing. And then call the people they suggest. And then call the people they suggest....

If you are polite, you will find that most people are instinctively kind when someone needs help - it costs them nothing, and most know that in the future they may be in the same position. Industries can often be quite small - you may be in a position to help them when they need it.

The results

Networking can yield unexpected results. You could get vacation work, a job offer in your final academic year, or you may meet your future employer. By proacting your search and going out and meeting people, you are demonstrating a drive and commitment to start your graduate career - this is one approach you can take to 'stand out from the crowd'.

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