by Rachel Vilsack

You have undoubtedly heard that networking yields the best results in a job search. While many people find jobs through their personal contacts—like friends, family, and former colleagues, it may also be important to network directly with employers. This sounds easy enough, until you realize that there are over 170,000 employers across Minnesota. It is essential to target your networking search to industries or companies that require your professional experience.


Step 1: Identify Companies

Start by exploring print and online business directories. Identifying 10 companies in an industry or occupation you have experience working in. There are probably many print directories available at your local library. They’re usually published annually, and some specialize in a particular industry sector. This would be most useful for a job seeker who interested in working for a particular type of firm that specializes in a product or service that capitalizes on the knowledge and skills he or she has.


One online directory—the CareerOneStop Employer Locator—allows you to search for companies by occupation. The tool asks you a series of questions, such as what occupation you’re interested in and in what location (state, region and city). The results will display a list of businesses, including address, telephone number, and key contact. Keep in mind that this online resource is not intended to display the job openings that the business may have, so you would need to contact them directly or visit their website.


Step 2: Research the Companies

Conduct an Internet search on these companies to learn as much as you can about each. Look for an “About Us” page or list of company employees. Learn more about what they do and how you might maximize your networking activities.


For example: if you have experience working in a production facility, it might be important to know what products the company makes and, if possible, what machines or equipment are commonly used. Then if you choose to contact this employer directly, you’ll have information that can be used to make a connection, like “I have experience working with the production equipment your business uses.”


Use the “Companies” search tool on LinkedIn to identify if you have any connections to the company already. You might just know someone who knows someone who works there!


Step 3: Make Contact

Network with the employer by phone or in person. You can use the details you learned about the company in combination with your elevator speech to make you stand out to the employer. You might even find that you want to conduct an information interview with the employer. Remember, your networking activities may include making a contact with an employer who doesn’t have a job for you right now, but who might know about potential jobs or people you should connect with.


Rachel Vilsack ( is a regional labor market analyst at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.