Professional networking is the process of building relationships with contacts that can, and often do help your career. Networking to find your next job can sound like a lot of work or even intimidating to some, but if you follow the steps listed here you will find that it can be simple and can end up being very rewarding to your career. ( Video )
1) Identify your network: Your network should include anyone who can assist you in getting your next job opportunity. A good networking contact might be someone who makes hiring decisions, but it also should include people who simply work in your field or at a company which you might have an interest in. Start by making a list of people you know; family, friends, former colleagues and classmates, parents from your children’s school, friends of your family members, spouses of your friends, mutual civic club members, etc.
2) What your network can do for you: Your network can be extremely valuable, your contacts might be able to tell you about a new job before it is even advertised, when you’re notified that a company is hiring your contacts might be able give you insight on who and how to approach someone in their current or previous company, or better yet they might recommend you for the position. The limits of what your network can do for your career really come down to who you’re able to include in your network.
3) What you should do for your network: Always remember that networking is a two way street. You should reciprocate and in many cases be proactive with providing the same type of insight and assistance to your contacts in your network. Have you heard of a job opening that is a better fit for one of your contacts than for yourself? Share that information even if that contact isn’t actively looking for a new job, at least they can review the information for themselves. The more you give to your network the more you usually get out of it.
4) Online career social networking: Websites such as Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, SoaringMe.com and others allow you to re-connect with contacts in your network, meet new contacts, and keep up to date with the latest information about your network and perhaps new job opportunities at their company. Linkedin is really focused on careers, the profile you create is very similar to your resume and you can search for, and connect with past classmates and co-workers asking them to write a recommendation right on your profile. If you are actively searching you should make your profile visible to everyone so recruiters can find you, and you can search for and join groups that are focused to your areas of career interest. Facebook is another way to find contacts from your past and you can join pages and groups connecting you with others with similar career interests. Twitter allows you to follow the tweets/updates of companies you have an interest in working for, recruiters in your line of work, and any industry associations that may apply. Many job sites allow you to search for current jobs as well as have new jobs that meet your interest emailed to you as soon as they become available, making you one of the first to know about the opening. You should try to find a job site that is focused on jobs in your career.
5) Have a plan: If you have a short list of companies you’re trying to get hired by, or a career change you’re focused on then how you go about networking should reflect this. First, include on your network list anyone who works for one of these companies/industries that you personally know or is known by one of your contacts. Research what type of events the contacts you want in your network get together at; association events, conventions, alumni networking events, chamber of commerce events, etc.
6) Reaching out to your network: Whether in person, over the phone, or online, you need to reach out to your network and let them know what you’re trying to accomplish. You will be more successful when asking for their insight and advice then by asking them to help you find a job. Let them know that you’re looking for work, and what specifically you’re interested in, but make sure you focus on asking if they have any helpful information or advice they can share or know somebody relevant in the field. Be clear if you’re asking them to be a reference, provide you with a referral or an introduction to a good recruiter. Make a point to offer your help them as well.
7) Focus on the relationships and take time to maintain your network: The most effective networkers don’t just focus on their own needs. They take the time to catch up with their old contacts, they listen and ask questions, they offer their assistance, and they make sure they are available to help even after they’ve gotten the help they were looking for themselves. You will be much more successful at your networking if you genuinely focus on doing right by your contacts.
8) Review the quality of your network: The results you get from networking will depend greatly on the quality of your network itself. You should review who you are networking with at regular intervals such as every 30, 60, or 90 days. When evaluating your network you should consider the how willing your contacts are to assist you, how well connected they are, and the size of your network.
9) Make the most of both close and less established contacts: Naturally you will have contacts in your network that you are closer with than others, but that actually makes for a stronger overall network. If you are only having regular contact with those in your network that you’re already close with, you aren’t growing and stretching the value your network can provide. Build relationships with new contacts as well as your existing contacts. You never know who might end up being in a position to help your career, so focus on doing right by all of your contacts.
10) Grow your network: Strengthen your network by regularly meeting new contacts, and by making it easier for new contacts to find you. Attend events and ask for introductions from your existing network to their contacts that would be good for you to know. Take time to fill out a profile on Linkedin, specialty job sites, and other online networks where recruiters in your industry are looking for quality candidates.
11) Career networking events: Attending events put on by associations, companies, civic clubs or any career or industry focused groups can be one of the most effective ways to network. These could be in the form of a convention, a local mixer, continuing education events, or an event specifically for networking. Be sure to dress for success but also appropriate for the event, bring your business cards but usually not your resume, take the time to identify who at the event would make a good addition to your network, and focus on building