Networking is the single most effective job search strategy. Yet, the primary purpose of networking is to gather information, advice, and referrals that may ultimately lead to interviews and employment offers. Thus, how you approach the process is very important.
Approximately 70% of all available positions are never advertised. That is why it is called the "hidden job market." Networking is the best way to uncover it. Most employers prefer informal and personal methods of identifying employees. Networking does not eliminate the need to use other job search strategies, but it typically provides helpful referrals from approximately 60% of your contacts.
Assess your interests and skills and choose occupations, career areas, or organizations to investigate. Members of the CDO staff can help you with self-assessment process.
Develop a list of potential contacts in your field of interest who can cover a range of experiences and viewpoints.Some useful sources for identifying contacts are: Kenyon Career Network (KCN), LinkedIn, your parents, your friends, your parents' friends, your friends' parents, your professors, your neighbors, relatives, professional associations, and former employers.
Now that you have a list of potential contacts you want to contact them by e-mail or phone to request an informational interview by phone or in person. Writing first can be helpful to allow them time to anticipate your call and think of information that might be helpful to you. Make it clear that you are asking for information. Allow the volunteer to offer different levels of help at their discretion, perhaps based on their years of experience, influence in the organization or field. In many cases, it also depends heavily on the first impression you make, so conduct research in advance and have some thoughtful questions to ask. (See samples below.)
If you setup a meeting by telephone, prepare a brief script saying who you are, who referred you (if appropriate), why you are calling and when you would like to meet. When writing, mention the name of the person who referred you (or other source -- e.g., the KCN, newspaper article, information gathered from company research) early in your message. Specify when you will call (usually within one week of your letter or e-mail). If a physical visit is not possible, your initial call might be to arrange a phone appointment time for a discussion. Remember, a face-to-face meeting is always preferable.
If you provide a resume with your letter, make sure to note that it is for background information only. That way, it doesn't impose any expectations on them, but does allow them the discretion to pass it along to other individuals, if they choose.
Thorough preparation is the key to a successful informational interview, both to gain the information you want and to make a favorable impression. Research the contact's career field, industry, and organization in order to prepare informed questions. People will feel more comfortable in referring you to other professionals when you demonstrate your own commitment to professionalism in networking. Those who "wing it" will unknowingly close some doors for themselves.
Here are a few tips to help in contacting and building a rapport with those are you attempting to connect with: