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It happened the other night when I was picking up my kid from youth group. This one thing will get your resume to the top of the pile every time. Networking.

Fearless job seeker, I would like to tell you that I’m a natural when it comes to networking. Put me in front of several hundred people to speak and I will deliver an inspiring talk. Put me in a coffee shop with ten people and I will retreat to the corner avoiding conversation. It may be that I think I should be so self-sufficient that I don’t need anyone else in the process, yet that is simply not true. If you want to find a great job, you need to know great people.

In fact, the last three jobs I’ve held were a direct result of networking with people in those organizations. This doesn’t mean that in order to get a job you have to know someone in the organization. It just means that someone you know may know someone you need to know.

Every sales person, recruiter, and business developer understands this concept. You have a lead. It turns into a contact, and that contact becomes an advocate for you.

So, I’m picking up my kid from youth group and run into a parent who happens to work at a target company I’ve been researching. I asked her about the culture of the company and her personal outlook on the work environment. By the end of the conversation, I’m sending her my resume. Extra bonus, she even knew the person I interviewed with in another company and confirmed the good things I had been hearing. This is the power of networking.

As a recruiter, employee referrals go to the top of the list and always get a call from me. Hannah Morgan gave these statistics regarding employee referrals in an article, 7 Things You Should Know About Employee Referrals, (US News, Money, 10/7/15);

“If you’re targeting small companies with 99 or fewer employees, 14 percent of new hires came from referrals. Medium companies (100 to 999 employees) hire 24 percent of referrals, and companies with 1,000 or more employees fill 27 percent of jobs through referrals. No matter the size of the company, hiring happens through referrals.”

Clearly, networking is important. So what do you do if you aren’t good at networking? Develop the skill. Instead of avoiding everyone in the coffee shop, put down the coffee and that book you aren’t really reading anyway and introduce yourself to someone. Find networking groups within your industry and go join them. Write down your target company/industry and then write down those you know associated with the company/industry. Call them and ask them their expertise and advice. People love to be experts and give advice. The best networkers ask lots of questions and listen a lot. And if they do advocate for you, say thank you, because one day you may need their expertise again.

So fearless jobseeker, get out there and network!

Do you find networking hard or easy to accomplish? What obstacles keep you from networking? Leave a comment!