Network in your community at the grassroots level to start your career


My summer job hunt has been a real wake-up call for me on the importance of networking. After a week of looking through advertisements in newspapers, on job sites, notice boards and even on lamp posts, I was still summer job-less. I was beginning to think the current economic crisis had finally made its mark on me.

Then I remembered Karen Williamson, the director of the Immigrant Settlement Services at Brantford’s YMCA. I met Karen through a charity event where I was a volunteer. I had heard of her extensive experience in providing employment assistance so I decided to seek her advice.

We started by polishing my resumé to a high shine and then we explored the places where I could ‘distribute’ my resumé. At this point, Karen gave me some invaluable insight into the hidden job market: more than 90% of available jobs are tucked away in the hidden job market and only the remaining estimated 10% are advertised to the public.

Employers are often disinclined to advertise for cost reasons. Small businesses with immediate vacancies might be unable to bear the cost of advertisements. Job advertisements can also produce a hoard of resumés which they do not have the time or resources to deal with. Furthermore, employers are more partial towards references from people they are familiar with. That’s where networking comes in.

According to Karen, the key to networking is to spread the word about yourself and one of the best places to start is your community. Talk to the people you see regularly at your church, mosque or temple, charity organizations where you volunteer, members of your extended family, and even your neighbours. Talk to the people you see every day and let them know you are looking for a job.

The chances of these people having a vacancy to offer is small. However, there is a greater chance they might know of someone who is hiring. The more people you talk to, the more the word gets passed around and the greater the chances someone with a vacancy will hear of it.

The plus side of this ‘grassroots’ style of networking is that employers are bound to hear about you through people who know you personally. They’ll be able to give reliable character references and therefore increase your credibility for the position. Compare that to the lone resumé-and-cover-letter package you send to an employer with whom you have no connection whatsoever.