Where to Find Network Contacts

I’ve been thinking about how and where to find network contacts.

The idea is this: imagine you are a professional who recently entered a job search after working for years in your last job.  Maybe you have had a few changes in employer, or divisions that you worked in.  Nonetheless, you haven’t done any traditional “networking.”

Now you are told you will likely network into your next job.  And you don’t know what that means.

I remember sitting at a small table with a blank sheet of paper with an old retired guy asking me to list “who I knew” – this would be my network list.

My mind was as blank as the paper.

So, the question I pose to you – WHERE do you find network contacts?

10 thoughts on “Where to Find Network Contacts”

  1. Since it is assumed that this person is new to networking, I would recommend they first understand what networking “is.” And after reading books or performing online searches and talking to others about what networking is to them, define what networking “is” going to be for yourself.

    To me, it’s paying it forward and offering help to others with no expectations in return. Yet those that are clear in their networking needs, offer a sincere appreciation and realize that sending thank you notes is one of the most important part of networking, will get you more help.

    You see, as we network, it helps to demonstrate our real personal brand.
    It’s all about building a life long relationship and not just a touch point of when we need something.

    Where to meet people that maybe able to help us are;
    First know what you want, your value and who your target companies are.
    • Then, start with your family, friends, and neighbors.
    • Talk with former co-workers, bosses and suppliers.
    • Job networking groups
    • LinkedIn, groups and individuals

  2. I think you start by supplementing your reading of Jason’s blog with Keith Ferrazzi (of Never Eat Alone fame) — blog and book.

    Beyond that, I used to work for a company where nobody ever believed there’d be layoffs or an outright sale. When recruiters came calling, we politely said no because we never thought anyone would be able to match the combination of pay and work environment. But then the company got sold and then many of us were laid off and suddenly most of us were left with a network that was comprised primarily of co-workers (including other displaced people).

    I refocused my LinkedIn efforts. After counting the percentage of 1st Level connections who were former co-workers, I committed myself to doubling or tripling the percentage of 1st Level connections who weren’t alumni or current employees of my former company.

    I looked at my Sent and Saved e-mail files, my outdated Daytimers, and listed the people who sent me personal notes after hearing about my layoff or people who had either provided me positive feedback in the past, been positive influences on previous projects, or seemed to be in positions where I might be able to provide value.

    I started a blog (www.posborne1.wordpress.com), which has led to nice comments from people I used to know and people I don’t know, and that’s led to some networking with people who periodically send me their good wishes or job opportunities they see (both are extremely welcome). Some of them ask to establish contact via LinkedIn (I’m not one of those people who think your only LinkedIn contacts should be people you know well).

  3. Peter and Shane make excellent points and have good suggestions that I completely agree with.

    Someone once told me to “follow the money.” In other words, go to your checkbook and see who you write checks to: your doctor, barber (or hairstylist), landscaper, etc. This works well for business owners as well. Sometimes vendors can be great people to network with.

    Some of the people we pay regularly have known us longer than anyone else, and they should be willing to help us network. After all, without a job, we stop paying them. 😉

  4. Many people overlook the most obvious contacts most people have, their friends and family. I have been unemployed for about 8 months, so end up talking to lots of unemployed people. Most people seem to know the most obvious people to talk to, your co-workers, ex-bosses, and other business associates. But I am finding many people I know are making contacts through their families, even their kids. A few people I know found jobs through parents of their kid’s friend’s parents. These may be the parents you sit next to at your kid’s soccer game, or the parents of your kid’s best friend.

    Remember that the person you are directly networking with may not seem to be in a position to help you with your job search, but they may know someone who can. Don’t be afraid to tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. You never know where your next job lead will come from.

  5. You might begin listing target employers and then describe either people you know that are connected with these companies or research to identify hiring decision makers in your area of expertise at these companies. The end goal is to connect with hiring decision makers and the fastest way to achieve this objective is through a mutual contact.While you are figuring out who you need to know and how you are going to get introduced, develop a clear description of your value proposition so you can tell them what differentiates you and help them to appreciate your potential contribution to the team.

    What frequently happens during a job search is that once you run out of current contacts and still no job offer, then you will have to expand your connections by networking purposefully — that means creating a list of target contacts who are affiliated with employers that interest you and are likely to appreciate your interest in them. If you initiate this planned approach to networking designed to get connected with company insiders where you may want to work, you can expedite your campaign building momentum from the get go rather than focusing from the beginning only on people you already know. The faster you can connect with those likely to have job leads to share and the clearer you can communicate your potential, the better the results and the quicker the outcome.

  6. Jason
    I think you have some excellent suggestions.
    I want to point out that all of your suggestion are complimentary to each other since you don’t know where that next opportunity may come from. Whether it be Linked-In, Facebook, Twitter, Networking Groups, Blogs, Books, Articles. Anything that you contribute to, all work to supplement one another.

    I have had several conversation regarding the importance of one over another. Each person needs to find what has value to them and contribute without spreading themselves to thin. Some individuals that I have met are only on Linked-in. Think of the missed opportunity by not taking part in some of the others. Feel free to sit on the sidelines and learn the group dynamics. In the end you need to put yourself out there to get noticed and to get your name in front of those that can help. The key is to participate in the groups and not just belong to them.

    The Job search is a humbling experience especially with a prolonged search.
    Having the ability to talk with others to tell them what you are looking for will get you to that next opportunity that must faster.

    Lastly, a network needs to be nurtured. Learn more about those in your network then just what their career aspiration are. Find a way to stay in front of your network, Send them a note, leave a message, Let them know you are thinking of them periodically.

    Some other networking opportunities to consider College and Business Alumni Associates, Church groups, Chamber of Commerce, Parent associatation, you childs sport team. It is important to network with those that are working as well as those that are in transition.

    Build your network before you need it.


    Scott Percival

  7. Ken’s point is crucial: You MUST let everyone in your network know that you are looking for a new position. That can be humbling, but you will be pleasantly surprised to find out helpful people can be and how glad they are to have the opportunity to do something for you.

  8. This may have been mentioned before, but I was told to start listing off everyone I know and how I know them. It is amazing, when you think about it, how many people you actually know.

    In high school my English teacher made us do “free writing” exercises as prompts for writing papers. I’d recommend setting a timer for 2 minutes and then to start writing down names would get you started off nicely. Once those 2 minutes are up, feel free to continue if you’d like.

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