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Networking: The Job-Search Tool That Trounces All Others
CENTER ONLINE, 06/20/2013

For young professionals, having the right professional network can make the job search a whole lot easier.

There are countless methods for finding and applying to jobs in the "real world"—job fairs, online, newspaper classifieds, through a friend. Indeed, the options are staggering.

But millennials agree that one method in particular trounces all others.

According to a majority of millennials employed by associations that I've spoken with, one strategy yields consistent, positive results when it comes to landing a dream job. Forge the right connections, and watch as job offers land in your lap.

Rachel Johnson, communications director at the National Safe Boating Council says making strong connections was vital as she searched for a job while still in college. "I got my job because of a professor; that was a relationship I built for four years in college." In fact, Johnson honed many relationships in her field that could have led to potential jobs. Her strategy: Take time to truly get to know other people and the organizations they work for.

After graduating from college, Amanda Sue Piltz, director of technology at the Scottsdale Area Association of Realtors, turned to a slightly different "connection" to land her job—a head hunter—who, according to Piltz, was able to take a hard look at her interests and find a position that would benefit from Amanda's technology and realty experience. "As soon as [the head hunter] showed me the job description, I knew it was perfect for me," Piltz says.

Former association event-planner Aaron Wolowiec founded his own company, EventGarde, LLC, a professional development consulting firm primarily serving associations, which was anything but a solo operation. Wolowiec says that the key to any successful job is "surrounding yourself with the right people." And in the case of a new business or association, "you need not only mentors but the right vendors and suppliers."

For some, finding the right people doesn't come so easy, and the road to finding the perfect job isn't so clear cut.

After receiving a master's degree from Georgetown University's Communication, Culture, and Technology program in 2011, Benjamin Gentry expected to land a job in a matter of weeks. But after applying online for dozens of positions without receiving so much as a "thank you," Gentry realized that if he wanted to find meaningful work, he'd need to connect with real people, not waste time navigating recruiting sites and online HR systems.

Gentry decided to start researching, networking, and collaborating with a mentor over a three-month period to eventually land the job of his dreams in management consulting—a process he detailed in a recently released e-book, Deliberate Pursuit. Based on his own trial-and-error job search, Gentry offers a four-step program any millennial can follow to find a job that fits.

1. Seek help. Knowledge is power, and experienced professionals have knowledge to share. Find mentors who are experts in the field you want to enter. "You can approach your job search on your own, but why not open yourself up to new perspectives a mentor can provide?" Gentry says.

2. Find people. Focus on connecting with "weak ties," friends of friends or someone who has something in common with you, who "will expose you to new information and contacts in your desired field," Gentry says. Searching for friends of friends who share hobbies or interests on Facebook and LinkedIn are good places to start.

3. Request informational interviews. Rather than ask for a position outright, ask professionals about themselves and what they do during an informational interview. Informational interviews not only help millennial jobseekers learn about individual connections, but also give "a glimpse of what an [association's] culture is really like," says Gentry.

4. Learn to pitch your abilities. There are thousands of associations out there, all looking to hire the right candidate. Continue conducting informational interviews until you identify at least two or three companies that would make a good career fit. Once you identify your passion, "you can target your approach by leveraging your network to schedule informational interviews" and "look for opportunities to pitch your abilities to get employees to recommend you," Gentry says.

No matter how you do it, Rachel, Amanda, Aaron, and Ben all agree on one thing: Connecting directly with established professionals and mentors vastly improves your odds of landing your dream job, regardless of how you go about doing it.

Brennan Gamwell is communications manager at IMPACT—Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust. Email: bgamwell@impact-net.org

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