Eric Vanderburg

Do you know why all the major online retailers offer a way for users to review products? It’s because people want feedback from others when making a decision. Job searches are no different. A resume may say a lot about skills and experience, but it says little about a person and, in the end, it’s the person who gets hired. Start networking to accomplish this. You can do this by building a network, networking through groups and through social networking.

Building a network

A word from a colleague or associate regarding an applicant makes a much greater impression than a good resume. For this reason, it is important that you not only gain the necessary skills and experience but also build a network of professionals in the industry.

You can begin the process right now. Create a list of the people you already know, such as friends and family, neighbors, co-workers, coaches or trainers. Even people you have met in the past such as friends of your parents, your doctor, insurance agent or lawyer can help.

Discuss your career goals with people you know and seek their advice on how best to prepare. Most people have a desire to help and enjoy providing advice if they know that advice will be appreciated. Make sure you follow their advice if it sounds reasonable and keep them up to date on your progress.

If you don’t follow their advice, let them know why. These people will be your champions once they see that you are willing to listen attentively, pursue your goal tenaciously and communicate with them. You are giving them a success story they can later relay to a hiring manager, which can go a long way in establishing that you’re fit for the job.

Networking through groups

Join one or more professional groups such as ISACA, ISSA, ACM, or Infragard and begin attending their meetings. As you talk to people, concentrate on asking questions about their work and some of the challenges they face. Work on being a good listener by concentrating on the person, thinking through what they say and asking questions to clarify.

Don’t forget about your nonverbal communication. Smile and make eye contact. Shake hands firmly and keep an open, inviting stance. Be aware of their nonverbal communication as well, especially indications that they want to switch to a different topic or step away from the conversation.

It can help to collect business cards and take notes on the people you meet; it’s easy to forget important details if you don’t write them down. Review your notes before your next meeting so you can engage with people again and pick up where you left off.

Social networking

Develop a LinkedIn profile and possibly a Google+ or Twitter profile. Add the people you meet to your social networks so you can continue to interact with them and better understand their relationships with others. However, don’t rely solely on social networks, because they are simply an extension of your real-life networking activities.

When it comes time to search for a job, let those in your network know what you are looking for. Be specific. Don’t just say you are looking for a job. Rather, say what position you would like to have. A large number of positions are filled without ever being posted to a job board. Those in your network may be aware of one of these possibilities and could mention you to the hiring manager.

Remember, you are asking a great favor of someone when they recommend you for a job. Make sure you have developed a good relationship with that person before asking. In other words, don’t ask someone about potential opportunities the first or second time you meet them.

Make those personal connections and begin networking now. The process itself will make you a better communicator, and the relationships you build will benefit you long after you start your career.