How Do I Build a Network from Ground Zero?

This is a very popular question from people just starting out in their careers or those seeking employment in another country.  Here are two questions I receive often:   “If I do not know anyone in my geographical area, profession or industry of choice how can I network?”  “If networking is the number one way in which people find professional employment in the US, then how does a person build a professional network in the first place?”  These are, in fact, valid questions.  The good news is that everyone has a network.  Some networks are a bit more indirect than others.  The six degrees of separation from anyone in the world is true.  Nearly 80% of the potential jobs available are hidden.  They never hit the Internet job postings sites.  And whether you think you have a network or not, anyone can tap into this hidden job market and be successful.  Here are three simple resources to uncover your unrealized network so you can increase your chances of tapping into this hidden job market everyone seeks.

1.  Your college alumni network:  Alumni from every college and/or university in the world is at your fingertips.  Fellow classmates are now working in a myriad of professions, companies and industries, and these people can provide you more information than you think.  There are people all over the world who might not know you personally but share a common bond.  Allegiance to our alma maters run extremely deep.  Conversations concerning collegiate sports, traditions and experiences are the source to beginning many strong business relationships.  Reach out to these people through your campus alumni database, LinkedIn Groups and clubs.  Texas A&M has an extremely strong former student connection through our Association, local A&M clubs and LinkedIn groups.  Thousands of people are waiting for you to just reach out.  Will 100% of these people respond to you?  No, but don’t forget that famous quote from Wayne Gretzky:  “You will miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

2.  Your professional resources:  As I stated above, LinkedIn is an online resource that basically serves as a electronic professional network and rolodex.  It allows colleagues to connect and stay connected.  It providse a platform for business related exchange of information.  A job seeker can tap into this service by simply reaching out to experts in various professions, companies and industries.  Professional associations typically have LinkedIn group connections to provide networking opportunities and information exchange.  Engaging in a professional conversation is an ideal way for job seekers to connect with hiring managers and begin building a professional footprint and reputation.

3.  Your home country connection:  Each year, we have numerous international guests joining our academic programs with the concern of their lack of network.  I argue that this network can sometimes be the strongest of all.  We have thousands of internationals working in our country who can provide the best advice to those just starting the process of searching for sponsorship and employment.  Look to your undergraduate institutions and seek alumni who are currently working in the US and especially those who are working at firms on your list of top companies.  These people have already been through the experience and can provide the best advice on best practices and worst mistakes.

Everyone has a network.  Some networks are more obvious than others, of course, but each and every person has people ready and willing to provide solid advice and direction. The key is to ask and think creatively and not immediately ask for a job.   Realize your value proposition to business and market that message to a targeted audience with clarity and passion.

Please share with me your thoughts and experiences.  I am sure my readers would be interested to see how this has worked for others.



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