Networking is a key business tool to use when you are looking for a job. Of course, if you wait until you start actively looking for a job to also start building your network, it may not be of much value to you.
Networking is a process of relationship building with people who may be excellent mentors, whose opinions and knowledge you respect, or who may be willing to help you when you need it. People who may be part of your network include:
- A coworker who has taken you under his wing and served as a mentor to you.
- A boss whom you have come to admire for her work ethic, her ability to solve problems, or her people skills.
- A client whom you have appreciated for the way she conducts business and is respected by her peers.
- A friend who is respected within the broader business community.
Even while you are still in school or comfortably ensconced in your current job, you should constantly be solidifying your network and adding to it when an opportunity presents itself. For example, college and high school students should consider contacts made through summer jobs or internships when beginning to build a network. You will graduate one day or you may find yourself looking for a new job. That's when you will appreciate having made the effort to build your network because you'll have a team, a group of people interested in you, ready to help you.
When that moment comes take care not to overwhelm those in your network with messages and calls. Certainly, let them know about your changed circumstance. If you do receive an offer of help be sure to understand exactly what the offer is. Was it simply an "I'll keep my ears open" or was it a more definitive "I'll call my friend at ABC Company because I think they could use someone with your talents?" The former might not need anything more than a thank you, while the latter may include your offer of providing the person with your most up-to-date résumé.
Regardless of how much help an individual in your network has provided it's courteous both to keep everyone informed about your progress (without being a pest about it) and to let them know when you have gotten a job. Closure is important both to thank your team for their help and to let them know you have a job so they can pull back on any efforts they are making on your behalf.
Just because you now have a job doesn't mean you let the network fade into obscurity. Keep in touch occasionally, and let them know that you, too, are available to help them in any way you can. Turn about is fair play.