When you look at professional job hunting resources such as Resume Help, you will see plenty of references to the idea of career networking. You will see articles that lay out the best ways to enhance and grow a network, but there aren’t many articles that start at the beginning and explain what networking is and how it is done. Let’s examine what networking is and how to network for a job. These tips will how you how to develop a list of contacts that will help you find your next job.
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What Is Networking?
Career networking is when you develop a list of contacts that you feel can help to connect you and your qualifications to potential employers. These contacts can be professional, personal, or both, but they should all have some kind of value to yourself and your network. You will find that having a diverse career network with a core of people in your chosen industry will offer you the best value. When you have a diverse network, it becomes easier to inspire others to join your network and enhance your job hunt.
How Do I Network?
You have to get out there and talk to people about your field and your qualifications. You should have business cards printed up with a very brief summary of your qualifications and your contact information that you can give to people who would benefit from that information. After you have your business cards, then you need to get out there and start meeting people. Some of the obvious places where you will meet career network contacts include job fairs, corporate gatherings, and civic events. But you may meet someone at dinner one night and that person could be a very valuable part of your career network. To build an effective network, you must be prepared and willing to network any time you are out of the house.
This advice can help get you started if you’re wondering what networking is and how to approach it. If you can establish a strong network of professional connections, you can set yourself up for opportunities and success down the line as your career develops.
Here are 9 top steps to network successfully:
1. Attend a variety of networking events
It’s always a good idea to attend as many networking events in your chosen industry as possible. That gives you ample opportunities to add to your network and it’s nice to see familiar faces. However, consider attending other networking events in your surrounding areas as well, in order to expand your career path. You never know who you will meet and that someone may know of the perfect new job opportunity for you. Attending a college alumni event or reading the alumni directory provides additional networking sources that could lead to additional networking contacts and events.
2. Meet people at networking events
Your goal of attending a networking event should be to meet as many new contacts as possible. Adding contacts to your list can quickly expand your industry network and offer you multiple new career opportunities. One networking tip would be to not get caught into long discussions and lose track of time. Make your time with each contact or group of contacts meaningful so you get remembered. Then, move on to meet more and more people. You will quickly learn whether a contact can be a valuable asset to your career needs or not. In other words, there should be a common connection to each contact whether it be industry or something else.
3. Create and hand out an impressive business card
Bringing a business card to a networking event is a great way to make instant connections. However, since the exchanging of business cards could be great in number, you need to make your business card stand out. Typically, business cards are the same size and color. Rather than just print out a standard white business card, create something unique. This could be adding some element that corresponds with your chosen profession. Perhaps you make your business card a bright shade of blue and include some sort of memorable industry-related graphic like a calculator, computer, typewriter or stethoscope. After the networking event, you want your new contacts to review the collected business cards and your card stands out among the rest.
4. Build networking relationships
Walking around a networking event, making small talk, is not enough. You need to develop quality connections with the people you meet. This can be accomplished by making a good first impression. You want your industry contact list to be interested in following up with you. So while it’s great to meet a large number of people at a networking event, quality may be more lucrative that quantity. Plan to make a few quality connections that will be beneficial to the future of your career.
5. Show your confidence when networking
Although a networking event may feel intimidating at first, it’s best to act confidently among your peers. Your confidence will impress others and that will help you attract more connections. Prior to the event, think about what pertinent industry discussions you could lead with others. Perhaps there is an interesting social media post that would be a great conversation starter. Remember to maintain eye contact when speaking to others and listen to what others are saying.
6. Make online connections
Networking in person can provide you with an immediate connection but making online connections are equally as effective. In fact, connecting with people online can grow your contact list faster and by a larger number. Social media is a convenient way to build lasting relationships with those in your industry that you consider beneficial to the success of your career. It’s even a way for you to reconnect with those you met at in-person networking events. If you currently work for a large company, reach out and connect with team members in other departments.
7. Create a networking group
As you build your networking connections, you will quickly see which contacts stay in touch. That is a great opportunity to be proactive and form your own networking group. Simply invite that circle of contacts to meet again in the future. Plan an event that will bring your network together and instigate meaningful industry discussions. Through those conversations, your network will strengthen and potentially increase job opportunities.
8. Follow up with your connections
While it’s great to meet contacts, you need to do a bit of homework and occasionally follow up with your connections. This has the potential of strengthening those relationships and opening the door to new contacts. Following up can simply be an email, sharing a social media post, texting or even a calling. Reiterate that you are pleased to have them as part of your network and perhaps mention that you will be seeing them at an upcoming network event. Of course, if it was a hiring event, be sure to immediately follow up with an email that includes your resume and cover letter.
9. Provide assistance to your network
While it’s great to be part of a network and get assistance in your chosen career path, it is also important for you to offer your assistance to the network. This immediately shows that you are a team player and that you have something to offer. Even further, should you offer valuable help to the network, others will be more inclined to return the favor and provide assistance to you when needed. This includes recommending you for job roles.
What Do I Do with My Career Network?
Your primary goal with a career network is to let your network contacts know that you are looking for a job, give them a summary of your qualifications, and then encourage them to share your qualifications with anyone who is hiring. You get your network contacts to share your information by being active in your network and offering value to your contacts.
How Do I Offer Value to My Contacts?
If you have made a contact in your industry and that contact needs to rent a truck, then that truck rental contact you made last week then comes in handy. You help the industry contact to rent a truck and you help your truck rental contact to bring in some business. You just offered value to both of your contacts and that value is going to make your contacts want to work even harder to help you find a job.