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Job seekers pushed to develop online networking skills

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Diane Wheaton, center, of the Cortland works Career Center, assists Ami Ingrahm, left, and Donald Hooper on Thursday on the internet-connected computers in the center’s resource room.

It is rare, at times non-existent, to have the opportunity to walk into a business and get a job, as most jobs are found online now, said Diane Wheaton, employment and training director for the Cortland Works Career Center.

That is why networking, especially networking online, has become an important tool in finding employment and the center helps job seekers develop the skill.

Between 80 and 90 percent of jobs are found through networking, said Michele Baran, assistant director in career services at SUNY Cortland.

“Networking is key to getting most jobs. That has always been the case, but it is more so now,” Baran said.

Networking is how businesses, employees and job-seekers stay connected with what is happening in their field of work. The process of networking can be as simple as having a conversation with someone or connecting through social media.

“I recommend connecting with people on LinkedIn,” Baran said. LinkedIn is a social media website that allows people to make a professional profile detailing their career history, and to communicate with people in just about every industry.

The site was founded in 2002, but Wheaton said it is still beneficial. It is a good way to research companies, and for employers to view your profile — which acts like an online resume.

“Social media is important,” Wheaton said. “You should have a good online professional presence.”

When it comes to networking through Facebook or Twitter, Baran said the benefits of using them depends on the industry. Twitter can be beneficial if used right, she said.

The site is a good tool for following industry leaders and staying up to date with what their companies are doing. Baran said Twitter could also be used to engage with industry leaders when they mention something about their company.

“Twitter is more challenging (than LinkedIn), but there is value,” Baran said.

For Facebook, she said she has not seen much return from using the site as a professional tool.

Using online tools for finding a job, or connecting with companies is key, since most jobs are found online now. The career center provides workshops on how to use LinkedIn and other forms of social media, Wheaton said.

Aside from social media, Baran said it is important to attend networking events and business meetings. And while attending the events, make a few deep connections, rather than trying to mingle with everyone at the meeting.

“It is better to make a couple deep connections with people who will remember you,” she said.

The method benefits shy or introverted people. You do not have to talk to everyone and you do not have to do much talking either, Baran said.

“People are happy to talk about their own stories,” she said. “Ask them how they got to where they are, what did they do? It is all about getting the conversation going and being an active listener.”

Wheaton said you do not necessarily have to ask for a job, either. Just let the person know what your background is and make sure you have a copy of your resume with you.

That approach can be easier to accomplish in a small city like Cortland, rather than somewhere like Syracuse, she said, since Cortland is a smaller community and more people know each other.

Connecting with people who went to the same college as you can be very beneficial, Baran said.

“Finding people with similar interest areas is a great opportunity for networking and finding a common ground,” she said. “And employers like to hire people who went to their alma mater.”

One of the biggest benefits of networking is getting an insight into the “hidden job market,” Baran said. Not all companies post available positions online, and if you have the right connection, they may let you know about the non-posted position, or one to soon be available.

Networking tips from Harvard Law School

• Build relationships: Look beyond the short-term goal of getting your next job and look to the task of forging contacts that will be beneficial in your new position and for future career transitions.

• Compile a list: Identify people who may either provide relevant information on your job search or refer you to others who can.
• Make contact: The conventional method is to send an email and follow up with a phone call.

• Prepare for networking meetings: Come to every meeting prepared so you do not waste the person’s time by asking for basic details you could learn easily on your own.

Networking events

• The 33rd annual Business Showcase will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex. It will allow the community to discover businesses from around the county. Some will be advertising job openings.

• The Cortland County Chamber of Commerce hosts many networking events, such as its Business After Hours event. Once a month, a commerce member hosts a gathering for local business owners to connect and possibly form a business relationship.

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