We’ve all heard the tale of how your neighbor’s brother’s wife landed the job of her dreams thanks to a run-in at a PTA meeting with the head of a company she was dying to interview with. “Experts estimate that the majority of job openings are never advertised or publicly announced,” says Sharon Winston, senior vice president, managing director of Lee Hecht Harrison’s San Jose office.

“Networking is one of the most valuable, but often underused, resources for discovering job leads.” And that means it’s definitely no wive’s tale.
Making networking successful requires tapping sources not previously considered viable. Strike up a conversation with your doctor or hairdresser. Leads, if not good advice, will start materializing. Here are a few not so “urban” networking legends from LHH clients:

  • An executive engineer wanted to capitalize on his management and international experience. While waiting at an airport bus stop, he struck up a conversation with the man next to him who happened to work for a company that needed a manager for a plant it was looking to open in Europe. The engineer explained his background, happened to have a resume and landed the job.
  • “Joe’s” daughter decided to set up a lemonade stand in his neighborhood one summer day. Capitalizing on the opportunity, Joe began introducing himself and passing out his business card to joggers who stopped by. His out-of-the-box thinking led to several productive leads.
  • A social scientist with experience in HIV/AIDS was shopping with a friend and discussing her job hunt when another shopper exclaimed, “With your background, I need to talk to you.” The woman was the executive director of a non-profit organization. They set up an appointment and the job seeker landed a contract with the group.

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to networking is perseverance — don’t give up if your initial leads prove fruitless. “Establishing the right connections and building a widespread and strong network takes time and energy,” Winston says.