Job Search

Creative Ways To Network Yourself into a Job

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With many companies now asking their employees to double as informal recruiters, knowing the right people is more important than ever to your job search.

But in some fields, working the grapevine is more important than in others, according to LinkedIn research.

The computer gaming industry topped the list, with more than 28% of hires having connections to someone at the company. It was followed by computer and network security (27.8% of hires), venture capital and private equity (27.3%), political organizations (26.2%), wireless (24.9%), management consulting (24.6%), defense and space (24.3%), computer software (22.1%), motion pictures and film (22.1%) and computer hardware (21.8%). Interestingly, many of the fields are known for their heavier representation of men than women.

What if you want to enter one of these fields—but don’t know anyone working in it? The obvious answer is to mine your LinkedIn connections but there’s a lot more you can do.

Here are some strategies you may not have tried.

  • Figure out where the action is. If you are juggling job hunting with working full-time, you don’t have unlimited time to invest in networking. To make the most of your time, do some online research to find out where people with the type of job you want tend to converge in public. Say you want to work in venture capital. You’ll have a good shot at making valuable connections at your city’s tech Meetup, where investors tend to look for startups to back. Some professionals find that donating time to a nonprofit that has a lot of support in their target industry can be a good way to make contacts in an informal setting. For instance, if you want to work at a software startup, donating time to a group that teaches tech skills to young people might introduce you to like-minded professionals who enjoy giving back.
  • Rotate where you work. I’m often surprised by how many people I meet, without even trying, if I bring my laptop to a local café to work. Mingling may be a distraction if you’re trying to power through a report for your boss, but if you’re unemployed and working on job applications or have the option to telecommute on a slow day with no conference calls, consider setting up shop in a coffee house where professionals in your target industry tend to congregate. If you’re not sure where that is, a good place to start is at the one closest to the company where you want to work. Show up there a few times and you’ll start getting to know the regulars.
  • Comment on their writing. These days, many companies are trying to establish their employees as “thought leaders” by having them write blogs and white papers. Posting an insightful comment on their work under your own name can be a good way to strike up a conversation. With many professionals publishing blogs on LinkedIn, that’s an easy place to look for their work, but also do a search on Google to see if you turn up any other writing they’ve done. Comment on more than one piece by each writer, so they see you have a sincere interest in the subject matter. I’ve met many interesting professionals because they initially posted a comment on my own writing—and have really appreciated the chance to get to know them.

About the Author

Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist who specializes in writing about entrepreneurship and careers. She was a senior editor for Fortune Small Business magazine, and her work has appeared in Fortune, Money, Forbes.com, Inc. and Crain's New York Business, among others.