Photo of a student group connecting at Recruiting Days.Various reports indicate that between 70% and 80% of all job openings are never advertised. This is sometimes called the hidden job market. Opportunities in the hidden job market are identified through networking.

You have probably heard someone indicate they obtained their current position through one of their friends or somebody they knew. This is an example of networking. Networking entails establishing relationships with individuals and nurturing those relationships throughout your career. Networking may result in a job offer, but a pursuing a job offer is not the intention of networking. Neither is networking time-limited; it is a lifetime practice.

Tapping into the unadvertised positions of the hidden job market may mean the difference between securing a job in your field and remaining underemployed or unemployed, particularly in a difficult job market.

What is networking?

Networking is process of building purposeful, mutually beneficial relationships with a wide range of people for exchanging information, resources, and support you can access for personal and professional success. Networking can be used to gain valuable information about your career field, learn more about a particular company or industry and obtain an introduction to individuals within a company or industry of interest.

Some people negatively and mistakenly interpret networking as using other people to get what you want. When networking, two people connect in a mutually beneficial way, each offering something of value to the other one.

Make a list to establish a network

The best way to start networking is to make a list of all the people you know. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Family, friends and neighbors (and their friends and family)
  • Faculty, staff, supervisors and co-workers (current and former)
  • Classmates
  • Members of organizations to which you belong
  • High school and college alumni
  • Your doctor, dentist, clergy, hair stylist, etc.
  • Be sure to take advantage of impromptu opportunities to network such as waiting in line, social events, conferences and seminars. The person next to you may be your connection to a great job. You will never know unless you strike up a conversation!

Expand your network

  • Join student organizations and be an active participant – better yet, assume a leadership position
  • Join professional organizations. Many professional organizations offer student memberships
  • Attend local and regional conferences. Volunteer at these events or make a presentation
  • Develop a LinkedIn profile
  • Find a mentor(s)
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Secure a co-op or internship position

What do I do now that I have generated my list?

You will want to prepare a short introduction about yourself. This introduction may include some of the same element of the “tell me about yourself” response to an interview question. Some of the items you will want to include are:

  • Your name, degree or major
  • How you were referred to this person
  • What you are interested in (be sure to make it relevant to the person you are addressing)
  • Purpose of the contact (informational interview, information about the company, a referral, career advice, etc.)

How do I ask for assistance from people I don't know?

Since you are not asking for a job, most individuals can help and are willing to help. Almost everyone has received assistance from others throughout their careers and they are willing to help others advance their careers. Having a short introduction will help ease some of the anxiety of approaching someone you do not know well or are meeting for the first time.

If you know in advance that you will be meeting potential network contacts, familiarize yourself with their background, accomplishments and interest. If you enter the conversation knowing something about the other person, the conversation may be easier to start for both of you. Also, you will have an opportunity to consider how you might provide network assistance to them. Remember that networking is a mutually beneficial relationship.

Informational Interviews

Add to your professional network and learn more about potential careers by talking to professionals in those careers.   

Learn more about Effective Informational Interviewing (PDF)

Some Additional Networking Tips

  • Always send a thank you letter after an individual has provided assistance
  • Notify network contacts after you have secured a position
  • Systematically keep track of your network (name, date of contact, outcome or action required, referrals provided, etc.)
  • Willingly and readily provide network assistance to others when asked
  • Periodically keep in touch with your network, not just when you are in need of assistance

References for this article

Make Your Contacts Count (Networking Know-how for Business and Career Success): Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon

Networking for Everyone! Connecting with People for Career and Job Success: I. Michelle Tullier