If 2016 is going to be your year for a new job or promotion, I have a resolution for you: stop focusing all your efforts on your work and start focusing on your network.
Of course you must still do great work to be noticed. But too many professionals think that doing a good job is the end of their responsibility. Good work is just the beginning; you must also build connections in your company, your industry and your community.
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Marilyn Feldstein, SPHR, is a career coach and founder of Career Choices Unlimited. She says most people spend 90 percent of their time applying for jobs online, and that’s a mistake. “Online activity may feel productive, but it rarely produces results,” she says. “Ninety percent of job leads come from people, not from online postings.”
Feldstein helps her clients focus on building meaningful relationships through networking. She recently gave advice on how to connect in a presentation to CareerSource NEFL’s Professional Network. She says that a strong network is your best asset and the key to unlocking the “hidden job market.” Online job postings are all based in what’s already happened, she explains; your network knows what’s going to happen in the future. Another important difference: the hidden job market isn’t tied to the economy. Churn is always happening; companies can be laying off workers and hiring for specific positions at the same time.
Companies are bidding on new business. Projects are being launched. Somewhere, someone has announced his retirement or is planning to leave her position to start her own business. These are things that people know but haven’t yet made public. Your job is to be top of mind for enough people that when the time comes, you hear about an opening before the rest of the world does.
In fact, referring you to a new opening may benefit someone else as well. Many companies pay referral bonuses to employees who refer candidates for jobs. Companies find that they get more and higher quality candidates by paying their own workers to spread the word about openings. They also pay much less than they would if they relied on a professional search firm.
If you’re wondering where to connect with quality contacts, one of your best resources is a local chapter of an industry council. There, Feldstein says, you’ll find peers who are currently employed and who can help you connect with hiring managers and upcoming opportunities. Becoming a member is better than simply attending meetings, she says, because you’ll have access to benefits like the members only page of the organization’s website with information on job postings and certifications.
Marilyn Feldstein often starts off her networking workshops with a story about Jack Welsh, the former CEO of General Electric. When Welsh gave a guest lecture at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, a student raised his hand and asked, “What should we be learning in business school?” Welsh replied, “Just concentrate on networking. Everything else, you can learn on the job.”
Make people your priority in 2016. Reach out and reconnect with past contacts. Make it a point to meet offer a big payoff for your career.