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Weddle's Syndicated Content:

The Networking Gap

Every year, WEDDLE's conducts the Source of Employment (SOE) survey, which probes the activities and preferences of both job seekers and recruiters. We use it to identify what's working and what's not in the job market and occasionally, to pinpoint an overlooked opportunity for job search success. That's the certainly the case with the networking gap at job boards.

The 2012 SOE survey asked job seekers the following question: What do you like best about today's job boards? The responses were as follows:

  • 20.8% said ease of access,

  • 20.3% said the number of job postings on-site,

  • 20.1% said the fact that access is free,

  • 18.1% said the caliber of the job postings on-site (e.g., employers represented, salary levels),

  • 14.4% said the job search tools and information provided on-site,

  • and bringing up the rear, just 6.3% said the ability to network with other job seekers on-site.

Online networking, of course, has become much more visible with the rise of social media sites. Thanks to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and others, many of us now routinely exchange information and news -some of it personal and some of it not, some of it vital and a lot of it not - with a wide circle of people we know or don't.

More importantly - at least if you're in transition - these sites remind us that one-third of all job openings are never advertised - they are part of the "Hidden Job Market" - and that the best way to penetrate that market is by building up our network of colleagues and coworkers.

As the SOE results indicate, however, many of us don't recognize the networking power of job boards. Whether it's Medical Mingle, the social networking area on HealthJobsUSA.com, or the Discussion Groups surrounding CareerHQ, the job board of the American Society of Association Executives, whether it's the Tech Talk listservs at Dice.com or the HigherEdCareers chat room at HigherEdJobs.com, these sites increasingly offer ways to connect with your peers.

Networking in the real world remains an important part of any job search, but networking online is now equally as central to success. The way you network on job boards, however, is very different from the way it's currently done on social media sites.

Practice the Golden Rule of Networking

Networking at social media sites is basically a contact sport. The goal is to acquire as many connections, followers and friends as possible. You may only actually know the first level contacts in your network, but there is the expectation (or at least the hope) that everyone they know and others known only to their contacts will lend you a hand in your job search.

Basically, what you're doing is asking perfect strangers to take a risk - to point you to or even recommend you for an opening they know about - without the reassurance of knowing that you won't embarrass them or, worse, harm their own standing at work. And, in many, maybe even most cases, that's simply asking too much.

Networking on a job board, in contrast, is a team sport. The goal is to build up your professional relationships. Whether the job board is operated by an association, publication or commercial enterprise, you use its discussion forum, chat area or listserv to practice the Golden Rule of Networking.

That rule is as simple as it is profound. You have to give in order to get. If you want others to assist you in your job search, you must first do something for them. If you expect them to share their knowledge of openings in the Hidden Job Market, you have to earn that support by sharing your expertise so they can solve problems or improve their performance at work.

Make that commitment - invest your talent in helping others - and they'll be more than willing to return the favor by helping you with your job search. And, one of the best places to practice that Golden Rule of Networking is on the social side of job boards.

Thanks for reading,

Visit my blog at Weddles.com/WorkStrong.

February 2012
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