What is networking?
Maybe you hesitant to network because you’re shy, or because you don’t want to be seen as pushy and annoying? It’s time to reveal the truth: networking isn’t about using other people to aggressively promote yourself—it’s about building relationships. Networking is nothing more than getting to know people. You’re networking when you strike up a conversation with the person next to you in line, introduce yourself to other parents at your daughter’s school, catch up with a former co-worker, or meet up with a new friend. Everyone you meet can potentially help you take your career to the next level.
Tapping the hidden job market through networking may take more planning and nerve than searching online, but it’s much more effective. And while it may sound intimidating for you to step out and talk to others, it can be rewarding and fun at the same time!
Why should I network?
It’s common knowledge that people prefer to do business primarily with people they know and trust. Resumes and cover letters are often too impersonal to convince employers to trust you. This might be surprising, but most employers look inside they own network to see if anyone they know is suitable for the job before they release the job posting to the public. And very commonly, companies tend to do inside screening first, and only look outside if they can’t find someone from within. Networking can lead you to valuable inside job information often before a formal job description is compiled or a job post announced.
In addition, job listings tend to attract piles of applicants, which puts you in intense competition with tens and hundreds, sometimes thousands of other candidates. Networking takes you to a recommended (and slightly favoured) member of a much smaller pool. Think about it, a key contact from your network can make your resume stand out from the mountain of resumes they received, what is the reason not to give it a try?
Tip 1: Know yourself inside out
Before you mingle, you need to conduct a thorough self-assessment. An honest review of your strengths and weaknesses, and a firm grasp on your accomplishments and transferrable skills is vital. Develop a comprehensive a career plan for yourself, and make a list of the types of jobs you want and the types of companies and industries that interest you.
Networking is most effective when you have specific employer targets and career goals. You may think that you’ll access more opportunities if you leave yourself open to all the possibilities, but the reality is that a vague and unclear request will not leave any impression on your connections. They have their own busy lives to deal with, no one will remember what you said unless you make a clear and sincere point. Asking for specific information, contacts, or an interview opportunity is much more focused and easier for the networking source.
Tip 2: Learn to organize your network.
During your job search, you should spend at least 30% of your time on networking, finding potential job openings, and keep all your contacts up-to-date. Constantly expanding your network will increase your chance of stepping into new opportunities, it also requires you to have a detailed record of all connections and the information each contact has to offer.
If you plan to continuously expand your network, the best method to obtain a record of your contact information is having a database or spreadsheet where you can enter key information, such as names, titles, company names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, as well as dates and contents of communication. Keeping an organized collection of business cards, where you can write notes and comments about your network, is another useful alternative.
Tip 3: Reach out to your network, and keep in touch with them
Once you’ve drawn up your list of connections, start reaching out and making contact with these people. Build a friendly relationship with them, let them know that you’re actively looking for a job. Be specific about what kind of work you’re looking for and ask them if they have any information or know anyone in a relevant field. Don’t assume that certain people won’t be able to help. You may be surprised by who they know.
One of the best ways to gain more information about an occupation or industry — and to build a network of contacts in that field — is to talk with people who are currently working in the field. This will bring you more information and insight of a certain industry, and potentially more contacts and job opportunities on the future.
It is extremely important to stay in touch with your network, which you can easily do by phone, mail, or email. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help. Most people like helping others, and you must communicate your current needs with your network so they can help you. Remeber, the key is keeping your network informed of your situation and thanking them for their efforts.
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