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Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.
We’ve all heard this before, yet when it comes to job hunting we tend to dedicate more energy to perfecting our CVs and preparing slick answers to interview questions than we do creating relationships. It may seem intimidating at first, but the more connections you grow, the more opportunities you generate.
So how do you build a network and also generate awareness of your skills and knowledge? Read on, as I’m going to share with you 3 ways in which networking can benefit your job search.
Build Connections, Create Opportunities
Building your network can – and should – start before you even begin looking for a new job. The most effective networks mean that you may never need to look for a new job yourself again, as headhunters and hiring managers alike are constantly seeking out visible talent through formal networks.
Combining informal (personal contacts) with formal networking (business contacts) will broaden your network whilst keeping it meaningful, especially if you seek connections from a range of sources, such as:
- Shared interest groups, including alumni networks, social committees, volunteer organisations and professional bodies;
- Friends and relatives, especially those who may have a professional connection;
- Networking events, including conferences, expos and B2B meetups;
- Social media, utilising professional groups and connecting with thought leaders.
I cannot recommend LinkedIn enough for bringing your network together, finding opportunities to collaborate, staying on top of industry trends and showcasing your talents. To maximise potential, ensure your profile is complete and share the link on business cards, email signatures and other social media profiles.
Having a presence on social media networks can demonstrate your communication skills in a way that no CV can. However, with increased visibility comes increased vulnerability. Always be aware of the information you share online and the image you will portray to potential employers who are looking for fresh talent to represent their brand.
Get Recommended for the Job
If you have a fantastic network, use it. There is a knack to asking for referrals and the key is quite simple to not act like a spambot.
Start a conversation, explain your situation and see where it leads. Whatever you do, avoid unnatural phrases like “reaching out” and be specific with your needs: replace “do you know of anything going?” with an insight to your skills or recent experience, to increase the likelihood of a positive response.
Be prepared with your ‘elevator pitch’, an attention-grabbing 30-second introduction to yourself that you can adapt to different situations or respondents:
- Include your who, what, where, when, why: that’s your name, profession, skills and ambitions, situation and background, availability and reason for looking;
- Focus your pitch on what you can bring to the job or organisation, not what you think the organisation can offer you;
- Use a tone that balances your personality and your objective. If you will be using your pitch in person, practice saying it loud until it sounds conversational. Be you.
Referral candidates are 3-4 times more likely to be hired than non-referral candidates (source: Recruiter.com) due to the trustworthiness of their source. Get a recommendation from a connection already in the company and not only will it increase your chances of getting the job, but it will allow the opportunity to find out if it is the right fit organisation for you.
Network for Personal Growth
Your networking efforts do not have to be directly connected to your next job opportunity to have a significant impact on your career. Getting strategic with how you utilise your network could provide copious opportunities for personal development that will have both short and long-term advantages for your career.
Network for Personal
Find a Volunteer opportunity
If you find a gap between the job you want and your current skill set, volunteering can be a fantastic way to both develop new skills and gain new experiences to support your job search. Contact members or companies or charities that may be able to provide you with relevant experience.
Find a Mentor
If you are serious about your personal development, a mentor can help you grow and expand your horizons to achieve your goals. Often someone who has “been there and done that”, a well-suited mentor would demonstrate knowledge, skills or behaviours that you look up to.
Find a mentor through existing relationships, or try specific networking events, apps or social media. Mentoring is a great opportunity to test out ideas in confidence and receive both encouragement and constructive feedback.
Develop your communication skills
Whether it’s face to face or digital, networking is all about communication, which is at the heart of every organisation. You might choose to test the waters with new methods, be bold and develop your confidence on a new platform or keep on practising until it feels perfect. Either way, any opportunity to develop this key skill will prove valuable.
Join a Professional Organisation
Becoming a member of a professional organisation not only opens up networking opportunities through events and often a members directory but also through training and courses relevant to your chosen profession. Use these as a formal chance to develop your professional or personal skills, whilst connecting with like-mind professionals.
Share insights, knowledge and be known
Like many, online was my chosen introduction to networking. Easily accessible, time adaptable and shy or introvert-friendly, the internet has naturally become our go-to networking solution.
Whilst it’s easier online to share an interesting article you’ve read or start an open discussion, you may prefer the buzz of networking in person, where speaking opportunities and public networking events can provide the perfect environment for you to share insights. Whether you do this on or offline, the more you push yourself out of your comfort zone to demonstrate your expertise in your field, the more confident you will grow to be. As well as enabling you to expand your knowledge and reach, it can also benefit your reputation, mindset and skills.
Support your network and it will support you. We all have a network in some shape or form, but if you want to build a network that will not only grow in itself but also support your growth, create meaningful connections and utilise your network to build both your professional profile and your career.
Stevie Barnes is Deputy HR Director & Senior HR Business Partner at Taylor & Francis Group. She promotes adding value through effective HR and communications, focusing on development, diversity, leadership and engagement. She is a regular contributor to LinkedIn and the JobsTrackr Career Blog. To stay networked, connect with Stevie on LinkedIn and follow her tweets on Twitter.