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In its essence, all job-hunting is a search not only for information, but also for people for human links between you and information, between you and a prospective employer. These days, such links are called “contacts”, and a common word for all of your contacts is your “network” talking to these people is “networking”.
In the job-hunt, networking is often the secret of the game. Consider: a 2003 study showed that for the companies participating, 60% of their new employees were hired through employee referrals, or the Internet. Since other recent studies have shown that the Net accounts for less than 10% of new hires, that leaves us with at least half of the open jobs being filled through networking.
The quickest way to find a job is when a friend tells you that they need someone exactly like you where he is currently working. Now of course, it isn’t usually that easy. But if you don’t directly know someone who can tell you of a job opening, then the next step is to see if any of your friends know of someone else, who might be aware of an opening. Or maybe one of their friends do. And so on, extending farther out away from you. And interestingly, the further out you go, the more likely you are to find a job this way, and it’s not just because of the increasing number of people involved. This principle is called the Strength of Weak Ties, and it is central to your job hunt.
Every resource on the Internet (and off) can always be used for contact/data mining and name gathering. Who are the authorities in the field? Who is it that others listen to? Who is respected and well-known? What people write the bulk of the articles and periodicals in the field? Who are the people that others interview most? Quote most? Generally, the people that are more highly placed in their field will be the ones who know the most people in their field; and, as a corollary to “The Strength of Weak Tie” principle, the people that they know well, will also tend to be more highly placed.
And the more highly placed they are, the closer they are to the people who have the power to make hiring decisions.
These people will, of course, tend to be busier than most, but they are no less approachable for that. Just remember that anyone you contact on the Internet (or off) should be approached respectfully, politely, courteously, with keen awareness on your part that this is a busy person who may or may not be able to respond to you. If they do give you any help, thank-you notes should always be sent to them promptly (within a day or so), by letter or email, for the help they gave you.