You've probably heard that candidates referred by friends are much more likely to be hired. Statistics regarding how many employers fill jobs via their networks vary, but some toss around numbers as high as 80 percent. No matter the exact figures, no one doubts that networking helps job seekers.
There are many ways for job seekers to expand the numbers of people who know, like, and trust them and who may be willing to serve as their allies in a job search. Social networking--using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+--provides many opportunities to engage and interact with new people.
Job seekers should not forget in-person networking, though. No matter how useful online networks are, candidates who use those tools as stepping stones to meet people in person will access opportunities and resources beyond those available online. In many cases, in-person follow-up makes the difference between two people who have heard of each other and respect one another and two, committed colleagues who are willing to go out of their way to refer each other for job and business opportunities.
A new tool can help people in many large cities find in-person networking opportunities. 99Events.com (http://www.99events.com) allows you to search for events using a keyword. For example, you could search for "career" in your big city. The site will search public events posted on a variety of tools like TicketLeap, Meetup, Facebook, Eventbrite, and Eventful. (And all of these databases are potentially useful tools to search individually if 99Events does not support your city or town.)
Don't limit yourself to career events. Find groups who share your personal interests. If you haven't searched tools such as MeetUp, you may be surprised by the depth and breadth of special interest groups meeting all around the country.
How can you improve your chances to make the most of events you attend?
Research who is coming. It's so easy to find out who's attending an event. Even personal events, such as birthday party invitations, often come via email with online RSVPs that make it easy to see who's attending. Look for people you don't know and try to find out more about them. Google their names and identify some contacts you may want to know better. Ask friends who they think you should want to meet and co-opt their help for suggestions--and introductions.
Introduce yourself well. Don't just show up at professional and casual events before considering what you want other people to know about you. Be able to say something about yourself that would interest the people you meet. Be sure to target what you say so it won't bore your talking companion.
Follow up. Don't forget: It's your job to keep in touch with people you want to know. Do not expect to hear back from anyone you meet, even if they say they'll call. Make sure to maintain control of the engagement and interaction by getting contact information you'll need to get in touch and by asking how to best connect after the event.
When you plan ahead and include all of these issues on your "to do" list, you will be ahead of most job seekers and that much closer to landing a job.
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 and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.