Throughout College, I constantly heard the word “Networking” being thrown around- mostly in discussions of the inherent value of creating a vast collection of professionals available at your fingertips. Since graduating, I’ve focused less on procuring a large network of yoprofessionals and have come to realize that it’s a huge mistake. Somewhere between 60-80% of jobs are found through networking. It’s a statistic that’s almost hard to swallow for Millennials who simply don’t have a large network to rely on. For others, the word “duh” comes to mind as they’ve been working tirelessly to grow their own. Developing friendly interactions between fellow professionals is vital to a growing career. So, how would one grow a beneficialnetwork essentially from scratch? It’s actually a lot simpler than it sounds.
Make A Networking Plan
Set specific goals for yourself and for networking. Are you looking for seasoned professionals, freelancers, or other young entry level candidates like yourself? If you need a viable starting point, identify your needs and work from there. Most of all, take the steps to understand your network. Analyze the contacts you’ve already built, whether it’s through College professors, recent graduates, or even guest speakers you’ve kept in contact with. Decide what course of action you want to take in procuring a networking outlet (traditional vs digital networking).
Decide Your Network
Long before the internet, networks were stored in rolodexes or actual black books. That’s not so much the case anymore. Most networking tools are online and accessed by millions of professionals. Linkedin is by far the most well known and can be a valuable tool in networking. Just make sure any online profile you use (including Facebook) are tailored to be professional, meaning there’s no inappropriate content that could cost you a job. If you prefer a purely non digital approach, that’s fine too.
Attend Networking Events
In addition to creating a strong online presence, attending traditional job fairs, corporate meetups, social events, and meetings are all great ways to build your contact list. Make sure to step out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to multiple attendees, passing out business cards and exchanging contact information. Do your research beforehand to make sure you leave a longstanding, positive impression. Oh, and while there’s often a bar at networking events, stick to only having one drink while you’re there. Trust me on that one.
Use Your Network
Simply having a network isn’t enough to get your name out in the job market. Begin by optimizing your online presence to show that you’re actively seeking a job. Linkedin, for example, has a Premium account that allows job seekers to become more visible to recruiters. Keep in contact with individuals within your network, whether through phone, email, or in-person meetings. Organize your contacts by professional subsets and make a list of which contact is best for specific references. If you have any contacts who work or once worked in your field, offer to buy them lunch and gather advice. Be effective in communicating and utilize your contacts to their best ability. Make sure to do the same in return because after all, networking is also about helping others in the same position.
Thank Your Network
This should probably go without saying, but be polite and courteous to those who are helping you out. Never use anyone’s name as a reference without their permission; not only does it reflect poorly on you, but they may not be prepared to give accurate answers. Call at their convenience and, if possible, set up a time with them beforehand. Don’t be pushy about getting results--respect the fact that they’re busy professionals and are doing you a favor. That being said, follow through with promises of your own and offer to help in return when possible. Creating a two way conversation is the best way to generate leads of your own. When in doubt, write a simple thank you note.
Whether you’re facing a career change or you’re just starting out on your own, it’s never too late to develop a strong network of seasoned professionals. Networking with others around you has vast implications of both professional and personal growth and, if followed through, will lead to better job opportunities. Keep these tips in mind and get to networking!