With historic unemployment rates and unprecedented impacts on businesses spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people in the U.S. are currently searching for new jobs.
For many of these job seekers, networking is often an expected — possibly uncomfortable — part of the process. University of Minnesota Professor Connie Wanberg explains why networking is important, what a job seeker’s first step should be, and what resources could help a job seeker become more comfortable with networking.
Q: Why is networking important in a job search?
Prof. Wanberg: Not all jobs are posted online or where you can find them. A whopping number of people find jobs through networking. A personal connection can give you an advantage in the application process. Networking is not just about asking for a job, though. You can use networking to simply get advice about your job search and companies that may be hiring.
Q: How has COVID-19 changed networking and the job-seeking process?
Prof. Wanberg: Nowadays, I encourage people to network on a video platform on their computer. Don’t just use your phone. You need a computer and webcam, but applications like Zoom or Google Meet are really easy to learn. If you haven’t used video calls yet, a friend or relative can help you learn. If you ask someone to meet in person, try to do so before the cold weather hits and meet at an outdoor patio.
Q: What is the first thing a job seeker should do when aiming to expand their network?
Prof. Wanberg: As a first step, concentrate on the relationships you have. A good way to develop these relationships is to just check in. Do you check in with them from time to time? Networking is not just about you and your goals. It is about building authentic relationships with others and helping those individuals as well. Tell these people you are looking for work — use your elevator pitch! See if they have any connections they might introduce you to to learn more about how they are engaging in job search during COVID-19, or others in your field of interest. You can also use LinkedIn.
Q: What should be included in a job seeker’s elevator pitch?
Prof. Wanberg: Having an “elevator pitch” is a short and persuasive summary about yourself. It is good to have this ready to use in your conversations. This should include three things:
- A brief overview of you, your experience and your line of work.
- Indicate you are interested in finding a new role.
- Briefly add a short sell about yourself.
Keep this very short! Don’t make the other person’s eyes glaze over!
Q: What has your research on networking shown?
Prof. Wanberg: Individuals who completed our Building Relationships and Improving Opportunities program online became more comfortable networking and found higher quality jobs that meet a job seeker's needs, such as higher salary, stable hours or being closer to home. This program is free online through the University of Minnesota and can be completed on your computer.
Connie Wanberg is a professor within the Department of Work and Organizations in the Carlson School of Management. Her expertise is focused on job searches and unemployment, talent management and career success.
- Business and Management