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Net a Job By Networking!

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More and more job seekers are finding work, thanks to people whom they have not even met. Such is the power of what is increasingly known as FOAF, or Friend of a Friend networks, the most popular of which being friendster and

While most of these networks' members join for primarily social reasons — usually to find others who share common interests, a growing number of individuals are discovering that it is great place to find both potential employees and employers.

"Networking sites are quickly becoming a mainstream way to find jobs or employees, make deals, and meet mentors," says writer Stacy A. Teicher in her Christian Science Monitor article entitled Working the Electronic Grapevine. "Several million people have raced to link up everyone in their little black books on the Internet."

Peering Into Opportunities
"I signed up with several online job sites that alert me whenever a new opening comes up," say Joanne D., a recent graduate who has been in the job market for nearly a month. "While I get notifications all the time, so do thousands of other people looking for work, so by the time I get my application and resume in, I'm up against hundreds of other applicants." Out of curiosity, Joanne signed up with friendster, where she found not only people who had the same interests she did, but a surprising abundance of promising job leads.

Another job seeker, Johnny R., met a mentor — who later hired him — through the FOAF network "I initially joined in hopes of finding people who I could share and learn Photoshop tricks with. In the process of showing my work and asking for feedback, I met other members who were more than happy to teach me some tricks, and check out and enhance my portfolio," says Johnny. "When one of them decided to expand his business, he offered me a job which I happily accepted."

This serendipitous crossing of paths between job seekers and employers or recruiters happens so often that it has inspired the emergence of FOAF networks that focus on professional networking. Among the players in this brand new arena are the giant Monster Networking, Ryze Business Networking, and LinkedIn, the latter requiring a peer invitation for access.

The Hidden Job Market
"Career experts estimate that the vast majority of job openings are never advertised or publicly announced, but filled through word-of-mouth or networking — it's the hidden job market." says Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Web master of the award-winning Quintessential Careers site.

Exactly how vast is this majority? Job placement service owner Beth Anrig guesstimates about 80%. According to Anrig, most jobs are filled by managers asking other people "if they know anyone good."

Expert recruiter and Mind Tools editor James Manktelow observed that after internal promotion, networking is seen by recruiters as the most reliable and cost-effective strategy for hiring. In his article called Networking Finding Jobs Before They Are Advertised, Manktelow lists reasons why networking is such an effective approach, whether you are a recruiter and or a job seeker:

The benefits to recruiters of hiring you through networking include:

  • You come personally recommended by someone the recruiter knows and trusts
  • They can see you quickly and without waiting for intermediaries to act
  • The recruiter advertising costs
  • They can see you and make a decision without having to do the tedious work of writing a job specification and preparing and placing an advertisement

For you as a job-seeker, the benefits of networking are:

  • You get access to jobs that never get advertised
  • The recruiter can interview you for the job 'ahead of the pack'
  • You have a greater ability to shape the job on offer
  • Statistics are in your favor – you might be down to a 1:3 chance of getting a job before you even meet the recruiter, whereas if you approached the same job via an agency or an internet resume placement, the odds might be upwards of 1:100
  • It also gives you the opportunity to talk to key people to research the market and understand where opportunities might lie

The Strength of Weak Ties
Of course, the virtues of networking have been recognized way before the conception of online FOAF networks. It's the battle cry of many a career counselor valiantly preparing college seniors for the "real world." Prior to the Friendster, Ryzers and even Monster, networking was alive and well. In fact, old-fashioned networking isn't all that different from its high-tech, on-line progeny. Sociologist Mark Granovetter identified the backbone of networking, and described his thesis in a paper entitled The Strength of Weak Ties. Granovetter asserted that about 56% of people find jobs through a personal contact — however, of this number, only 16% found jobs through people they saw "often" (such as family or friends) and 84% found work through people they only saw "rarely." This is because people whom you know well tend to also all know each other, so they often know about the same opportunities. It's when you network and extend beyond the circle to people you rarely get interact with that something new — like job openings your social circle hasn't yet heard of — gets thrown in the mix.

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