Networking key to successful job search

people standing in a circle, networking

Congratulations! You’ve earned your degree or gotten that valuable new credential. Now how do you find that professional job?

As complicated as the job market has become, when it comes to your job search, one simple fact holds true: It’s who you know. According to HubSpot, 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking. In fact, according to CNBC, 70 percent of jobs are never published publicly.

Some people might cringe at the idea of networking. It does mean putting yourself out there. But let’s reframe the concept to make it more palatable. Think of networking as making connections with people and building relationships, not about schmoozing and using others to get what you need.

April Mchugh
Career and educational counselor April McHugh

If you feel stuck when it comes to networking, try to step out of your comfort zone just a bit and pick a few ideas below to focus on during your job search. Or, if you’re very social, try them all!

Join. Take part in at least one professional or trade association in your field. Attend their meetings, in person or virtually. Get involved in your alumni association – join local chapters, submit career information and achievements to their website and connect with alums in your interest area.

Learn. When you attend professional conferences, introduce yourself to speakers and attendees. Get a list of attendees and reach out via LinkedIn or other methods. Attend professional development programs, speeches or trainings relevant to your needs. Meet people and ask about what they are learning.

Interact. Keep in touch with college professors and instructors, fellow students and those you meet via your profession. Plan a few regular meetings – online or in person – with key contacts and invite them to professional gatherings. Stay alert to what’s going on in their lives. Send notes of personal or professional congratulations and encouragement as appropriate.

Share. Share resources such as articles, newsletters, reports or programs with your contacts that include a short note with your insights. Contribute to LinkedIn, journals and newsletters of your trade or professional organizations and connect with editors, staff or readers.

Follow up. Don’t forget to express appreciation – for resources, connections or time – via email or even a written note. Keep track of your professional contacts in a spreadsheet or the old-fashioned way by organizing business cards or scanning them into an app.

Networking is key to finding a professional job, and it’s essential to keep connecting with people throughout your career. It’s a lifelong skill that will continue to reap rewards. Remember that networking is not just about what you get. It’s also about what you can give to others. Network knowing that it’s a genuine pursuit of human connection, and the benefits go both ways.

The Lifelong Learner is a monthly feature written by UW–Madison’s Continuing Studies staff. Career and education counselor April McHugh can be reached at april.mchugh@wisc.edu. This article first appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on June 12, 2022.