Network! Network! Network!
Most jobs are not advertised.
Jobs and opportunities like work experience often go to people known to a company. Talking to people and keeping your ears open could help you get the start you need.
Around 60% of jobs are never advertised. A large number of job vacancies are filled through personal contacts. When times are hard most employers prefer to take someone they know something about. This saves them time and money on advertising the job and setting up interviews. You are unlikely to get a job offer from every contact you make. But – you may be offered work experience.
How do I start making contacts?
You already belong to a network. Make sure that all your friends and family have clear idea of what you are looking for. Start small – ask one person if they have any ideas of who you can talk to or where you could look.
You may have already met people who can help you at job interview or work experience. Have you ever spoken to someone at a career event? Check out for local job fairs – usually run by Job Centre Plus – go along and talk to as many people as possible.
Next – make a list of any other people you know who might be able to help. Search for networks that are already set up. Search on line for industry conferences or events and join business networks on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.
How should I make contact?
Find out as much as you can about the person you plan to get in touch with. People are usually flattered if you show an interest in them and what they do. If they are in work try to find out something about their company. You can use the internet to do this.
First of all – get in touch by phone or email and ask for a short meeting. Meeting face to face is a good way to make a lasting impression. Be considerate and suggest something like meeting for coffee – or a quick chat after work. Second best is to arrange a telephone discussion. Email or chat can be useful but if possible try for a more personal touch.
If your contact is working – they will not have much time to spare.
Help, I don't know what to say!
It’s OK to feel a bit uncomfortable at first. A good way to start is to ask for advice. Why not start by asking ‘How did you get into this type of job/career?’ or ‘What advice would you give to someone in my position?’ Networking can be scary, but try to relax and be friendly. Make sure that you sound enthusiastic. Most people will be happy to give advice and help.
Ask lots of open-ended questions, beginning with words like what, why, how or when.
If the idea of talking to someone just to 'get something' from them sounds a bit sneaky, try to look at networking as a two-way process. You offer your skills and abilities in return for support and information.
What if a contact isn't helpful?
Everyone gets knocked back at some stage. The contact you speak to may be pushed for time, tense about their job, or just having a bad day. Thank them for their time, and ask if they could recommend anyone else who could help. Always be polite – you never know who you may bump into in the future
A Good Ending!
If you are running out of things to say – or you get the feeling it’s time to bail out – try something like:
‘Would it be OK if we could stay in touch – maybe by phone or email?’
‘How would you suggest I go about getting some work experience that might help me in the future?’
Always thank a contact and stay in touch afterwards to update them on your progress. And – don’t forget to leave your contact detail.