Your network is the most valuable job hunting tool in your tool kit; right alongside an impactful resume. A well-developed and maintained professional network is the best way to safeguard against career or job insecurity. Research has suggested that the majority of all positions are filled because a connection knew about the posting, with a good portion of those jobs not even existing until a person appeared on the scene to offer a solution to the problem.

There are two ways to think about a network – picture two images each with three concentric circles.  In the first image put yourself in the bullseye. In the second, place target organizations – or people – in the bullseye.

Beginning with yourself in the bullseye position, the first circle represents the people who are 'closest' to you but can't help get you the position. What they can do, however, is suggest connections who might know more about the role. That puts you into the second circle distant from you, and these folks in turn can send you onward to the outer circle, where you have the clearest connection to the desired role.

The second image with target organizations or individuals in the bullseye works because each step toward the center narrows the network – think of it as a closed network – that helps get you the desired role.

No matter how you look at it, it goes back to the popular phrase: six degrees of separation. Or how many connections you need to get in the role. In either of these scenarios, before beginning the conversations in the networking process, it is important to have thought about the career criteria that are important to you in your next position. These can be stated in six or eight declarative sentences. You may or may not mention any of these in your conversations depending on the situation, but it is important to know them in the event the opportunity presents itself.

It is essential before beginning the networking process to determine and articulate a focus for the conversation. The focus is a clear statement about what you are looking for with a certain amount of specificity. During the course of the networking activity the focus may change based upon what you are learning in your conversations. Be prepared for different scenarios, and you can make sure you leave the conservation confident and prepared for next steps.

Want to learn more about networking? Make an appointment with Warren or browse our Networking resources