Halifax Job Search Strategies Forum Report

Exploiting Your Personal Network—Who Do You Know?

Watch streaming video of Chris Hornberger

Chris Hornberger, Partner, Halifax Global Inc.

Everyone has a personal network of friends, relatives, neighbours, and co-workers, said Chris Hornberger. All of these people are potential references and sources of information.

“Most people know 200 people,” she said. “Those 200 people know 200 people, and so on, so your network builds pretty rapidly.”

Managing this network is key: build it according to your personality, use it effectively, and maintain it by keeping in regular contact with each member.

Ask friends or family for invitations to functions and introductions to people they know, Hornberger suggested. She met an engineer from Pakistan at a recent function to welcome new immigrants. By evening’s end she had his business card and had made a promise to facilitate a meeting between him and a colleague she knew in his field.

“That is a warm call, and is much easier and works better than a cold call,” she said.

Image is important in building a network. Sitting straight, standing tall, shaking hands, and demonstrating an interest in conversations and people all leave positive impressions. Above all, Hornberger said, you want to leave the conversation with a call to action. Both parties should be clear on the next step, whether it is a job or an introduction to another person. Keep track of these contacts using a database or list, and revisit them regularly to keep the communication line strong.

Hornberger then showed a video on networking narrated by Andy Lapota. Lapota said 70%–80% of job vacancies are filled via personal recommendations or referrals. Gaining that word-of-mouth referral means building a network of people with diverse backgrounds and interests. Build and maintain this network, Lapota said, because “your next job may be your first but it won’t be your last.”

Social networking is another powerful tool for job seekers. Hornberger said there are 500,000 active Facebook members in Nova Scotia—nearly half the provincial population. By next year that membership might include nearly everyone in the province. Twitter, MySpace, Yahoo, PartnerUp, and LinkedIn can help job seekers build their networks and share personal and professional brands with potential employers.

Even in these online communities, image is important. Inappropriate photos or commentary, outdated content, and grammatical mistakes will make a negative impression. Be sure to balance online social networking with real-world experience.

“If you spend all day online, you probably won’t find a job,” said Hornberger.