My short time in the real world has taught me that networking is the most effective way to land a job. After months of sending thoughtful cover letters into the Internet void to no avail, I focused my energy on networking–and was markedly more successful. At first I was very nervous and timid about bothering people. However, I soon found that meeting new people to discuss careers can be fun, and that many people have gone through the same process and are more than happy to help.

You may already know someone who knows someone who can help you get a job. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Networking is especially crucial if you have little work experience, if you’re switching careers, or if you’re moving to a new place where your credentials might not speak for themselves. From an employer’s perspective, it is easier and less risky to hire someone who can be vouched for by a friend or colleague. It might take you some time to build your network and cultivate professional relationships, but you should be patient, kick your social charm up a notch, and persevere.

Based on my experience, here are a few tips:

  1. Define your career objectives. The better you can explain what you are looking for, the easier it will be for people to help you. Think of key words that describe the jobs you want and your qualifications. This way, when your contacts hear of relevant job openings, they might associate them with you.
  2. Recognize your resources. Don’t be afraid to reach out beyond your close friends and family to extended family, former employers and coworkers, teachers and professors, your school’s alumni, etc. Always ask your contacts to put you in touch with someone else who might help: this is how you build a network.
  3. Approach people respectfully. You should not expect people to give you a job, and it is rarely polite to ask outright. Instead, think of it as requesting career guidance. When you contact people, tell them you would appreciate any advice or insight they can give you into careers in your field…and mean it. Most people cannot get you an interview immediately, but you may still learn valuable lessons from their experience.
  4. Follow up and thank people profusely for their time. Try to stay in touch with your contacts so that if they do hear of an opening in the future, they will remember you.

The best places to look for networking advice online are college websites. Try Wellesley College, Harvard, or Kenyon College for some great instructions.

I found my current job through networking. How has networking played a role in your career? We would love to hear your stories and advice!