I've been working a long time. I've had plenty of different jobs. I've promoted many times. And laid off twice.
In all of that time, I've only gotten one job that was not a result of "networking." That job was my very first job out of college where I had an offer come in via the campus recruiting events at the University. All the rest, all the other opportunities were the result of working with people and talking with them about jobs at some point in the relationship.
A good example was when I wanted to move from Wisconsin to Chicago (crazy, right?). I was talking with my manager -- who lived in Chicago -- and I asked him what was coming up in the group. He told me he was thinking about adding a person, but he didn't know if he could do it internally. Since I lived in Wisconsin, he didn't think of me. So I said, "What about me? I've been looking to move to Chicago-land and it's something I could do well."
That's all it took -- two months later, I was in Chicago working the new gig.
Of course, I had to have the skills and the job performance, but that is what happens -- you have job skills, good job performance, and then opportunities show up.
Did I mention it was also a promotion? Yeah, that too.
Business networking rocks because it is all about doing a good job, working well with people, and looking for opportunities.
This is not about networking events, handing out cards, and all that other stuff. This is about being aware of what help other people need and then you providing the help or recommending someone who can help. The help needs to be about your skills and competencies. Beyond that, it is a way to work with someone that isn't all about the next task to get completed on the job.
Those opportunities give you and the other person an opening to talk about other things work related. This can border on office gossip, so you need to be careful about that, but really, it's talking about jobs and the work out there.
Not that you would necessarily do anything with the information, but by helping others, you open up other avenues of communication that become useful over time.
It is through those conversations and relationships built over time that opens up the "mythical" hidden job market. The hidden job market is not a myth; it is real -- as you can see from my own example. The job was never advertised. It was posted internally -- but by the time it was posted, my work performance and relationship gave me a very inside track on getting the job.
This happens all of the time.
Let's be clear here, though. This is not about "who you know." This is about your job skills, job performance, and your relationships. Just because you "know" someone doesn't mean you'll find out about a job or have an inside track to getting one.
Plus, if you don't have the job skills and the job performance, you will never know about the opportunity.
Look at the people around you. Look at the people in your life. Can you help them? That's the start of building your business network.