By: Jennie Barr

Many of us have dreams and aspirations to move far away and work in a big city. Whether you are looking for an internship or a full-time job, don’t underestimate the power of your network during your search. We have all heard that business networking is valuable and the key to success. As an upcoming graduate living in the Cleveland area, networking is a skill I wish I had focused on more.

Networking is the interaction between people to develop contacts and further one’s career. Networking can give professionals opportunities locally and nationally. We often begin to build our networks throughout college, which is typically located in or near a large city. As a senior at Kent State University, a large portion of my network is located in Cleveland. Although, I have dreamed of moving far away, my chances of landing a job where my network is located is greater than moving across the country.

Here are some benefits and reasons you should job search where your network is located.

References and recommendations

There will be times that professionals in your network cannot provide you the job or internship that you are seeking from them; however, they are able to be a stepping stone to other opportunities. Your network can provide you recommendations or references to professionals in different companies that are seeking qualified candidates. Remember, you don’t have to find a job with the people in your network, but you are building a connection with the professionals in their network as well.

Meet face-to-face

Meeting a business professional in person has a greater value than online networking. It gives you the opportunity to engage in the conversation, showcase your personality and buy them coffee. With the variety of social networking and technology platforms, face-to-face communication is lacking, which can restrict forming professional relationships.

Shared knowledge

Utilizing your local network gives you opportunities to share similar characteristics and common knowledge, but you also have the benefit of learning from your network. When meeting with professionals in your local community, it makes it easier to have a casual conversation because you are able to relate on trending topics in the area, businesses and mutual friends, but you’re also able to learn more specifics regarding your network’s experience and connections. By having your network share their experiences you are able to learn from them and your network can gage your interest for certain opportunities. By sharing knowledge, your network is able to assist in your job search by introducing you to new opportunities and offering to get your foot in the door.

I’m not saying you have to stay in the same area for the rest of your life, however, it helps to utilize your network that you’ve built over the past four years to land your first job or internship search. Start reaching out to all of those business cards you’ve collected over the past four years at the networking events and career fairs. They will be a stepping stone to landing your first position as a professional.

What benefits have you discovered from utilizing your local network?