Effective networking can be considered an art. As you master this skill, new opportunities will come your way and your career expand in new directions.
You may have heard the word “networking” once or twice (or ten thousand times) since you stepped onto the job market, but what does this word really mean, and how can it help you develop your career? Job search advisors and guidance counselors often use this term in a way that’s either highly specific or super vague. For example, “networking” can mean flying across the country to attend a seminar in an airport hotel just so you can awkwardly corner an expert in your field and subject them to your personal pitch. OR it can mean reaching out to a former coworker on Facebook to say happy birthday. Both count as networking, though each offers a very different level of action, risk, and long term value.
Networking involves any activity that helps you be in touch with people who can support your career. The secret to effective networking involves using your time and your social energy efficiently.
Networking Helps You Learn about New Opportunities
As you search for work, your first step will involve finding out about open positions you might want to pursue. And while job boards and industry websites publish plenty of positions, most available jobs never reach these venues. Candidates for these unposted positions are often found through employee referrals. Referrals almost always carry more impact that resumes from strangers.
If you talk to more people, then you know more people. And if you know more people and these people know that you’re looking for work, they can help you discover hidden inside tracks.
People Like People They Already Know
Hiring is risky. Hiring total strangers is so risky that most managers would rather avoid it altogether if they can. If you “know” a hiring manager—even if that means you met just one time, or you’re the friend of a friend of a friend—it makes you seem less threatening and more reliable, smart, friendly than you otherwise would.
Networking is Easy! (In Theory)
Start building your network by taking a few simple steps. First, reach out to the people you already know in a professional context. These include people you’ve worked for, worked with, or met during a work-related event. Try to remember the people you meet at work events and keep an eye out for any way you might be able to help, support, or connect with them. What goes around comes around!
Second, join professional groups in a formal way. Subscribe to an industry publication or add to a comment thread on an industry board online. Look for groups and societies that matter in your industry and become an active member of communities that interest you, both online and off.
Third, attend as many “networking” events as you can. These include job fairs, conferences, seminars, and lectures that are open to the public and address issues in your industry. People who attend these gatherings expect to approach and be approached by strangers. They’re as interested in meeting you as you are in meeting them. Put on your game face and get ready to introduce yourself and tell your story.
For more on how to get the most out of every networking opportunity that comes your way, explore the job search guidelines on LiveCareer.