How to Use Your Personal Connections to Generate Job Leads

Most people hate the thought of networking. That’s because it conjures up thoughts of the insincere glad-hander you find at networking events—the fellow who presses a business card into your hand while he looks over your shoulder for someone else more important to talk to.

This is why I avoid the term networking when discussing job search.

To me, building personal connections is much different – and more effective—than traditional networking. It’s about developing meaningful relationships with others that are characterized by give-and-take. This means the relationship is mutual and of value to both parties involved.

Survey after survey reports that roughly half of all jobs are found through some form of personal connection.

That person might be your next-door neighbour or a distant acquaintance. Regardless, they are part of a social network you, I, and everyone else have around us.

So, who are these people?

I am willing to bet that your list is longer than you think. In fact, I am confident you can come up with at least 100 names or more pretty quickly. Start by listing your:

Family members, friends, friends of friends, friends of your parents, parents of your children’s friends, relatives, neighbours, former classmates, old teachers, professors, coaches, past employers, clients, suppliers, co-workers, club members, community leaders, lawyer, doctor, dentist, accountant, realtor, banker, financial advisor, insurance agent, health club members, alumni, church members, hair stylist, and service club members.

 To simplify the task, you might categorize them this way:

Level 1 connections: People you have a close connection with and see frequently, such as family, friends, and neighbours.

Level 2 connections: People you would describe more as work-related colleagues and associates.

The reason this categorization is relevant is that you are more likely to receive decent job leads from your Level 2 connections: people you know but are not particularly close to. This contradicts the widely held belief that those closest to you will be the most helpful in finding a job.

The main reason for this is that your Level 2 connections move in circles you don’t. They work in different sectors, socialize with different people, and know about different job opportunities than you do. You likely already know about the job opportunities that your Level 1 connections will suggest.

However, you must pay attention to the significant role your Level 1 contacts play in your job search. This is the group that will help you through tough times. It’s the group that will give you honest feedback on your resume, help you with practice interviews, empathize with you when you don’t get the offer you hoped for, and boost your confidence when you need it most.