By Paula Goodman
There is a great deal of information about how networking is the key to a successful job search. I do agree to some extent although not that networking will necessarily be the direct link to landing a position per se. The activity can, however, be extremely instrumental in leading you to the offer you so intensely desire. In higher education, networking is particularly challenging. Most managers are so overworked and under –resourced they have trouble finding the time to do anything above and beyond what is necessary every day. Added to this constraint is what I have referenced in past articles - the fact that there are no “hidden jobs.” Government regulations require every position in higher education MUST be posted. The key to networking is to find your “way in.” Who do you know in your peer group, extended family, alumni association, or LinkedIn groups who have contacts inside organizations you have targeted and in functions that match your skill sets? You should always use your referral source’s name when reaching out. I recommend starting with an email of introduction mentioning this person---after of course getting their permission to do so. NEVER say in your initial overture that you are reaching out for a job lead. It is better to indicate that you have a strong interest in what the new person does and where they are doing whatever “it” is. Also take the opportunity to mention how well your skillset matches their area. This may sound overt but if done properly it is more subtle. If you are fortunate enough to get a face to face meeting or even a phone meeting, be just as prepared as you would be for an interview. Research the organization and find out all you can about the individual. People are usually flattered that you took the time to do so even for this type of meeting. Try to end the meeting with their giving you other individuals to contact and ask for their permission to use their names. Be sure to follow up with a thank you letter/email that has substance to it. Periodically follow up with this first networking contact updating them on your activity. As long as you do not do so too often, they will appreciate knowing. Your hope is that they now have a vested interest in your success. Job boards often get a “bad-rap.” While networking is a critical part of a thorough job hunt, I highly recommend you still check job boards on a continual basis. Should you see an ideal job posted, you can strategically bring it up with your networking contact. I have always felt that if the stakes were not so high that networking could actually be fun and an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. Try to arrange your thinking accordingy.
About the Author:
As Director of Recruitment in central Human Resources for Columbia University, Paula Goodman manages senior level searches on an ad hoc basis. She advises internal schools and departments on recruitment strategies for positions at various levels. She handles high priority referrals from internal and external stakeholders of importance to the University. Under the auspices of the Office of Work-Life, she provides career advisement for accompanying spouses/partners of potential faculty recruits. She also provides confidential career advisement for officers contemplating internal moves. Additionally, she was re-elected for a second term to the University Senate as the sole representative for non-faculty on the Morningside campus. Paula returned to Columbia in 2000 after spending 14 years in senior recruitment positions in industry. Prior to that she was Assistant Director of Career Services at Columbia Business School. She has both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree from the University of New Hampshire.