At this time of the year and all year long, networking is key to your job search success. You've heard of the hidden job market, but maybe you didn't know that it doesn't necessarily refer to hidden jobs. Rather it refers to how the most-successful job seekers connect with decision makers and convince them to create a job that doesn't already exist.
How can you take advantage? Debra Feldman, the "JobWhiz" and an executive talent agent skilled in helping people network with purpose to access hidden jobs, suggests these five tips to create your own "career insurance:"
1. Target your connections. Feldman says: "Be selective, get to know and become trusted by individuals who can either hire you or recommend you to a hiring authority."
How? You should work on creating and enhancing targeted relationships with people who can help you achieve your career goals. For example, Feldman suggests you identify people at your current company or at other target companies who hire for the role you seek. Then, ask a mutual contact to introduce you. According to her, it's always best to have a third party introduce you to avoid making a cold call.
If you don't have a direct connection, use social media tools to attract hiring managers. Demonstrate your expertise online and via in-person discussions at conferences or events if possible.
2. Be visible, available, and accessible where your target employers can find you. You need to be where your contacts spend time. This includes online and in person "places;" if LinkedIn is the go-to social networking site within your industry, make sure you have a complete profile and update your status on a regular basis. Participate in and contribute to relevant LinkedIn groups.
Feldman suggests you make a point to attend industry conferences, so you have a chance to make a good impression. It's even better if you seize the opportunity to make a presentation, organize an event at the conference, or blog or tweet about the program. If you read industry publications, correspond with authors, comment on ideas, and share links with your connections. No doubt you'll attract attention and make a positive impression.
3. Look for opportunities to be helpful. Remember, networking is a two-way street ; don't forget to make an effort to give back. "Don't wait to be asked to contribute your knowledge or expertise," Feldman says. "Be generous before you expect anything from anyone who might be able to help you."
When you assist by providing on-target information, useful resources, an introduction to another person, or suggest a job opportunity, you help solidify your networking relationships.
4. Volunteer. This formalized way of giving back is a great way to demonstrate your abilities and trustworthiness to your network before you actually need their help or anything from them. "The better your personal contacts know your strengths and believe in you as a person as well as a professional, the more likely the people in your network and their connections will go out of their way to help you someday," Feldman reminds job seekers. "When you volunteer, you provide consistent opportunities for your network to see your skills at work."
5. Keep in touch. Once you connect with the right contacts, enhance your relationship via one-on-one correspondence. Leverage virtual conversations into a reason to meet up in person. Feldman suggests you "transform a telephone relationship into a real life exchange. Among virtual contacts, surprise them with a direct message, an unexpected phone call, post card, text, invitation, gift, etc. to stay top-of-mind."
"Don't take a break once you land a job," she adds. "Like all insurance, you get it in case you need it so it's there when you do need it. Your connections are a good investment and will help you find a new job in the future."
It's too late to start networking once you need a job, so maintain your network and you won't be sorry.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.