Developing Your Career

Developing Your Career

Be Proactive: How to Effectively Use Your Network In a Job Search

By Orville Pierson on March 18, 2014

Being proactive in job hunting is all about contacting the right people before they have a job opening. Or at least before it’s announced. Pursuing jobs that are already open—through recruiters and postings, for example—is essential, but that’s reactive, not proactive. The best way to be proactive is to use networking.

Unfortunately, there are challenges with that.

When I wrote a book on networking in job search, I seriously considered not using the word “networking” at all. It’s the most misunderstood and most abused part of job search. All too often, it’s confused with highly aggressive sales techniques. It’s associated with all kinds of embarrassing verbal gambits. And some job hunting books even advise networkers to lie.

In the end, of course, I used the word. Then I spent some time correcting the misunderstandings—and explaining how networking in job hunting is different from general networking in business or in life. Those who teach general networking focus on teaching people how to build large networks over the course of years. But in job hunting, you need to use the network you already have—and that’s what works best anyway.

The original, classic study on networking in job search was done by Mark Granovetter, a sociology professor at Harvard. Virtually all subsequent studies pay homage to his study—and come up with similar results. The bottom line, of course, is that the majority of job hunters find jobs through what we now call networking.

But Granovetter didn’t call it networking. He called it using “personal contacts.” And in his book “Getting a Job,” he defined those contacts as people “known personally to the respondent, i.e., the job hunter, with whom he originally became acquainted in some context unrelated to a search for job information.”

In other words, you’re most likely to find your next job by talking to people who already know you. Surprised? I’m certainly not. Those are the ones who can most credibly, knowledgeably, and even enthusiastically introduce you to the right people.

The crux of proactive job search, then is this:

  1. Make a target list of 40 organizations where you want to work.
  2. Use that list to search your LinkedIn contacts (the ones you actually know) for people who are current or past employees of your targeted organizations.
  3. Through them, identify and get introduced to the appropriate decision makers.
  4. Talk to those decision makers and make your interest, abilities and availability known.
  5. Follow up with those decision makers regularly.

According to LHH research, the average job hunter talks to 25 different decision makers on the way to being hired by one of them. Those decision makers typically do not have a job opening at the time of the first conversation. Later, when they do, you’re already on the short list.

Of course there’s more to it than that, and we cover all of it in LHH courses. But those five steps are at the heart of the most effective proactive job search by networking.

This is the third in a four-part series on how to find a better job faster.  


Orville Pierson is a top expert in job search assistance and is the author of Team Up! Find a Better Job Faster with a Job Search Work Team. For complete information on Mr. Pierson’s experience, please see his LinkedIn profile or visit his website,

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