Connect and Contact

Looking for a new job? Networking is one of the most effective ways to find it.

HANDS up, those of you who have stayed in the same job for the past decade.

Chances are, very few people today qualify for a long-service award, which indicates a changing work environment.

A recent survey on career choices and transition conducted by human resource consulting firm DBM confirmed this trend. Globally, the average job tenure has dropped from seven to six years.

Gone are the days of lifetime employment. Whatever the reason for switching, statistics reveal that employees change jobs at least eight times in their lifetime. What will make each move a success depends on the depth and breadth of your personal network.

Despite the growth in print and online job advertising, networking is, by far, the most effective way to land yourself a new position. People with personal and professional networks in place find the process less daunting than those who do not have a solid contact-base.

Here are eight tips for effective networking:

  • Networking is not about asking for a job.
    • Nor is it merely a process of passing around your resumé. It is about relationship building, information sharing and making long-term career connections. Seek as much advice and information, and use the opportunity to review and update your resumé and address book.
  • Do your homework.
    • Getting to know your network contacts, their companies and their industries will help to establish a relationship of substance. Scour the Internet, ask questions, read up, and gather as much information as you can. Try to maintain a 90:10 ratio of research to actual contact time. That is, for every 10 minutes spent with a contact, try to support that with up to 90 minutes of research on the contact and his company and industry. It will help you take charge and be a value-added contributor to the conversation.
  • Consider your personal network.
    • Think of the people you come into contact with — from your family members to your doctor — these relationships are invaluable door openers to expanding your network.
  • Join professional associations and become an active member.
    • Consider joining the national or regional chapters of industry or professional groups. Membership and active involvement in an association's activities can open the door to new job opportunities. These professional groups also provide a venue to showcase your talents and skills through various activities, projects and presentations.
  • Keep on learning.
    • Consider taking management and executive development courses to enhance your career development and network. Post-graduate programmes are increasingly becoming more tailored to the working professional. Each educational experience you open yourself to is another way to meet people who could benefit your network and career.
  • Promote and publicise your achievement within the company.
    • As Singapore is host to many multinational corporations with regional and global operations, it gives employees the opportunity to excel and be model employees to their overseas counterparts. By promoting your achievement in high-profile and successful projects in Singapore, you will open up opportunities for possible overseas posting or lateral movement within the company, or even a promotion.
  • Update your address book.
    • In this age of constant job movement and change, it pays to make a social call or to send a short e-mail message every now and then to a select number of people who may be able to give you referrals or job leads. It also provides an opportunity to keep that network going.
  • Use direct marketing to your advantage.
    • Direct marketing need not be limited to large companies bombarding consumers with flyers and product brochures. With some creativity and thorough research, you can put direct marketing to good use by targeting companies or industries you want to get into. Depending on the nature of your target company, explore different ways of catching their attention, and do not limit yourself to the traditional letter of application.

Whether you are looking for a job, considering self-employment, or just keeping your options open, networking is a lifelong tool that will help you at any stage of your career development. No matter which outlets you choose to tap, the key to success in networking is to stay active and keep your networks working for you!

Article contributed by Christina Lee, managing consultant of DBM Singapore, a provider of strategic human resource solutions that help organisations align their workforces to meet changing business needs.

This article first appeared in ST Recruit on December 10, 2005.