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Stay connected to your networking without being a pest

Anthony Balderrama, CareerBuilder Writer

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The cliché that "It's not what you know but who you know" is very true when searching for a job. Yes, experience matters, but a great interview can be meaningless if everyone on your list of references says you're a terrible person. An amazing GPA might not matter if you're competing against the CEO's daughter for a job. She has the better connections.

This is why having a solid network is important in your job search. Thanks to technology, you can stay in touch with people via email, Facebook, LinkedIn, text messages, video chats and more. Whether you worked with someone five years ago or met one time at a holiday party, you have several ways to add to your network of people who might help you land a job.

The problem is that you might be desperate to find work, but these people have lives to lead. They don't need to see your smiling face every day asking if they found a job for you. Rather than alienate the very people who might be your best hope for a new job, follow these five simple guidelines so that you can stay in touch without becoming a pest:

1. Use social media to your advantage

Social media is the obvious way to stay connected to colleagues and friends, even if you don't speak with them on a regular basis. Yet, one size doesn't fit all in this category. Some people are strict about using Facebook only for personal reasons and don't want to have acquaintances or business contacts on their friends list, while others might not have even heard of LinkedIn, which has become the Facebook for professionals. Then there are other sites, like Twitter, that allow for some connection between friends but isn't as comprehensive as either of the other sites. Which should you use?

Figure out how each person uses social media and stay in contact that way. Occasionally commenting on a status, saying "Hi!" on their wall, or thanking them for posting an informative article are simple ways to stay in front of them without being obnoxious.

2. Meet them for drinks or lunch

Some network contacts are nice people who you don't mind saying hello to in the hallway but you don't want to spend an hour or two making small talk over a meal. Don't feel pressured to -- especially because they might feel the same way. Reserve regular in-person meetings for people whom you consider a friend and enjoy spending time with. An occasional lunch appointment or even quick coffee break together is an easy way to stay fresh in their minds in case a job opportunity comes their way. Plus, that's an hour or two you get to spend time with a friend.

3. Don't network with enemies

Although not everyone is in the friend zone, some people are decidedly in the enemy zone, or at the very least you don't get along with them. Don't force a network connection with them because it won't make them like you. In fact, your insistence will probably annoy them more. Plus, do you think someone who doesn't like you is going to give you a glowing recommendation for a position?

4. Make the relationship mutually beneficial

No one likes a selfish person and no one wants to help a selfish person. If your entire relationship with the people in your network is about you and your job search, then you're not networking properly. When you do interact with your network, whether online or in person, talk about something other than yourself. Ask how they are doing and talk about topics that make it clear you're not simply using them for their connections.

More importantly, be a resource for them. If you come across a job opportunity that is a good fit for someone else, let people know. People in your network could be in the same situation as you. If one of them asks you for help in finding a job, assuming it's not the same job you want, do what you can to get the word out to your connections. If job search karma exists, you want to be on its good side.

5. Read their signals

The best way to avoid being a pest to someone is not to push their buttons, and not everyone has the same buttons. Rather than insist everyone be your Facebook friend or everyone meet you for dinner once a month, figure out what each person prefers. Social media addicts who are on Facebook and Twitter all the time are probably perfectly happy to exchange in wall-to-wall conversation with you. Someone who logs in LinkedIn once a month might prefer to talk to you over email or the phone. In all interaction with your network, learn how each individual prefers to communicate and follow suit. It's a nice way of showing that you respect them and pay attention to them, instead of making them feel like they're just one of a hundred people you're pestering for a job.

Last Updated: 10/05/2011 - 4:47 PM

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