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The official online job search resource hosted By Dick Bolles, author of "What Color is Your Parachute"
Contacts and Networking
Contacts and Networking
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The Strength of Weak Ties

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.

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The Strength of Weak Ties
The experts say that most of us know 250 people. When they say that you “know”  that many, they don’t mean that you go out to dinner with that many, or even have every one of their home phone numbers. But that’s the number of people who you can claim as friend, relative, or acquaintance: people you interact with, who would recognize your name. Within your circle of 250, there is your core: the few that you are especially close to, and maybe another twenty or thirty that you socialize with or see regularly. Outside of your core is the rest of your 250; these are the ones that you are obviously not as close to, like your wife’s brother out in Oregon, that nice older woman in the Accounting department, your sister’s no-good kid. 

It makes sense that the people you are closest to will have more in common with you; they will tend to have the same interests as you, and they will tend to know the same people as you; there is a lot of overlap between your circle of 250 and their circle of 250. And because of that overlap, they will be more likely to know what you know. And in the same way, they will be less likely to know what you don’t know; in this case, of possible job-openings. It is when you start getting farther away from your core, and start finding people with less overlap between your 250 and theirs, that you will find the people and information that you, and those closest to you, are less likely to know. Though it seems paradoxical, it is the people that you know the least well, who are most likely to be helpful in your job hunt. This is called “The Strength of Weak Ties”  

You cannot ignore this concept. To make your job hunt more successful, you need to find the people you do not know well, or at all. The less well you know them, the more helpful they are likely to be to you. And, lucky you, the Internet is pretty good at this.
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