In a job search, who you know can be as important as what you know.

One of the most vital keys to career advancement is also one that far too many job seekers routinely neglect: networking. In 2016, a survey found that about 85 percent of all jobs were filled by some form of networking. While other surveys have produced slightly lower estimates, they all tend to point to one inescapable reality: the success or failure of your job search can often hinge on who you know. That is why it is so vital to make your network a priority and know how to leverage it when you are looking for a job.

Unfortunately, many people search for jobs without ever tapping into those relationships. In this post, we will examine how talking to the people you know could help you find your next job. We will also explore ways that you can more effectively tap into that network to locate the right job opportunities.

Why the people you know can often be your best networking assets

Too often, people assume that networking requires constantly meeting new people, gathering contact details, and then eventually exchanging favors. That works well if you are trying to sell people something, but typically won't develop the kind of relationships you will need to help you develop your career. That type of network is transactional in nature, and far less effective than one built on strong relationships.

As career coach Dawn Graham succinctly recommends, “The simplest thing we can do is initiate career conversations with people we already know.” 

In most instances, the people you are closest to in life are always going to be far more likely to want to assist you whenever they can. That is true whether we are talking about family, friends, or longtime coworkers and supervisors. Your family and friends all have their own informal or even formal networks of contacts. The same is true for the people you work with.

Examples of great networking opportunities

Whether you are beginning or growing your list of people you can reach out to, do not forget to include the following:

  • Family

  • Friends

  • Former instructors and classmates

  • Previous supervisors and coworkers

  • Longtime clients and vendors

  • Longtime service providers

All these people can have access to information that could provide you leads on job opportunities. Friends and family members have their own connections with people and may be able to introduce you to contacts who can help you in your job search. Former teachers and classmates can be great sources for job information as well, especially when they interact with or work for companies in your chosen industry. The same holds true for former bosses and coworkers, as well as your customers, vendors, and suppliers.

6 tips to increase your networking success

Of course, it is not enough to just know people. You also need to know how to build a report with people you already know. Yes, many of them may want to help you when you are searching for a job, but it is important to manage the relationship in a way that keeps it from being purely transactional. The following tips can help:

1. Focus on relationships rather than networking connections

Nobody likes to be used, so make sure that your networking relationship is just that: a relationship. That means focusing on how you can help each person in your network rather than how they can help you. Be sure to focus most of your conversations on them, rather than yourself. Ask questions that can help you understand their needs and concerns. Always ask them about their career goals before you share your own.

2. Keep your relationships current

Do not be one of those people who gets help from a contact and then disappears from their radar. Instead, make a point of maintaining that relationship by regularly reaching out to each person in your network. Always check in to ask how they are and what, if anything, you can do for them. If they know you are there for them, they will be more likely to be there for you when you need them.

3. Be a good listener

Since you have two years and only one mouth, it should be easy to remember to listen twice as much as you speak. When you are engaged with your contacts, practice active listening. Absorb what they are saying and really consider what you are hearing, rather than simply thinking about how you are going to respond. Most people value relationships with those who truly listen to them.

4. Keep your promises

One of the most important things that you can do to build and strengthen a relationship is to commit yourself to keeping your word. If you say that you will help someone, do it. When you promise to provide a referral or recommendation, follow through on that commitment. Most people place a premium on relationships with those they can trust to honor their word.

5. Be positive

Do you dislike an old boss or coworker? Did you have an unpleasant experience with a former instructor or schoolmate? Are you carrying any family grievances that you have yet to resolve? If so, resist the urge to share those complaints with people in your network. In fact, never say anything that might be perceived as a negative comment on someone else. Positivity builds trust.

6. Do not be afraid to talk to everyone you meet

While your network should be centered on people you know, you will really limit yourself if you do not meet new people to expand your reach. Whether you are at the supermarket or your kid's football game, never be afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger. You may be surprised to learn that the guy sitting next to you in the stands works in your dream industry.

Tapping into your network to find your next job

Finally, it is important to know how to tap into your network when you are looking for a job. As with most things in life, there are many ways to get the help you need. As a rule, though, you should always focus on doing these things whenever you need to leverage your network:

  • Do not assume that you can find the right job without help. You have a network for a reason.

  • Begin your contacts by reaching out to those with whom you have built the strongest relationships.

  • When in doubt, use email to begin the conversation.

  • Make sure that your contacts know about your current career goals. After all, they are not mind-readers.

  • Do not ask your contacts to help you get a job. Instead, ask for advice or information about potential opportunities. Often, you may end up getting a referral from that person anyway.

  • Do not be afraid to ask people in your network for leads to other people who may be able to assist you.

  • Be sure to have your elevator pitch on hand so that you are prepared with a ready answer to the most obvious questions about your skills and goals.

  • If you are unemployed, make sure that you update your LinkedIn and other social media to reflect your current interest in a new job opportunity.

  • Take the time to personally thank each contact, regardless of whether they were able to provide any assistance. That is vitally important if you want to maintain that relationship.


Never assume that your best chance of locating the perfect job is to go it alone. Instead, get in the habit of reaching out to your network whenever you are in the market for new employment opportunities. If you do, you will soon discover that talking to the people you know can help you find your next job.

As you contact your network, it's important to have an up to date resume. We can help you create a resume that highlights your relevant work experience and desirable skills. Hire an expert today.

Recommended Reading:

Related Articles: