How networking can open up new opportunities.

Many jobs are actually not advertised at all but are found through word of mouth or by networking with family, friends, neighbours, people in groups you are a member of, and local employers.

There is a saying – 'it's not what you know, it's who you know' – which may spring to mind here. If people know you, your ambitions and your availability, you may become aware of future job opportunities or even work experience opportunities you wouldn’t have found through recruitment agencies or website searches.

You'll need confidence and a proactive attitude to approach employers, but try not to feel intimidated – they've all been in your position before and know how it feels.

Check out some of the hints and tips available on careers recruitment websites such as Fish4Jobs.

It gave me my confidence back and enabled me to be in a role that I was headed for, that of being a sole gardener making all the decisions. The staff were supportive, and I got careers guidance, help with my CV and I felt that I was making a contribution. In short it gave me the leg up I needed.

Informal job search networking

You can start networking from home – your first point of call should be your friends, family and former colleagues if you have some, before attending relevant events and careers fairs.

You can take a direct approach and ask for job leads or try a less formal approach and ask for information and advice. Contact everyone you know. You may be surprised by the people they know. Make yourself pick up the phone and call. It helps to give yourself a target number of calls to make each day. The more phone calls you make, the easier it will become.

If you volunteer or are attending events, parties or gatherings, it’s ok to mention in casual conversation that you are seeking employment. Accept all the invitations you receive – you never know where or when you might meet someone who can provide job search help!

Email is a perfectly good way to network as well. Keep your message brief and to the point and be sure to check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Formal job search networking

Formal networking works too. Try going to a business social or an association meeting or event.

You'll find that many of the other attendees have the same goals you do and will be glad to exchange advice and contact details. Practice smart ways to start a conversation, and you'll soon be a networking pro.

As well as networking face to face, you can use the internet to network. Visit discussion boards to network with career professionals and other job seekers. You can also connect with professionals and organisations through platforms such as LinkedIn, if you're using social media in your job hunt.

If you use social media, find and follow those companies or charities you might like to work with. Be aware that employers will also check out your social media activities so make sure it represents the best you.

If you belong to a professional association, visit its website or find meet up groups in your area.

Try seeking an Informational interview with some of your target organisations. This is where you can speak with someone who works there to find out more about the field of work you’re interested in.

Your Routes adviser can help you build your networking strategy and in some cases help you make local connections.

Our Advisers' Top Tips:

Aradhana says: Writing down your goal will make it official and add to your sense of commitment. Perhaps share your ideas with a friend and ask them to help you identify any gaps. Keep it fun and creative though.

Claire says: Imagine yourself having achieved the goal – how good will it feel?

Jayne says: Make a plan and stick to it.  However, make it flexible enough so that you can adjust it as you go along, or as unexpected opportunities or challenges arise.

Mirco says: Frequently re-examine your goal to ensure it’s still what you really want. Recognise and celebrate each small success along the way. Adapt it if necessary but keep to your main objective. Work hard and stay focussed on the result.