It’s always important to network no matter what career field you are in. Overall, the big picture of networking is to gather connections in a variety of ways that could be useful to you in the future. The network you currently have may consist of your friends, family, former coworkers, and other contacts you’ve known through your life. The people within your network could provide you with knowledge, fresh ideas, new business contacts, and other more. Your network can be as small or wide as you choose to make it! Networking with potential connections can be done at any time and and the effort you put into networking really does determine the benefits you receive; when it comes to networking, you get what you give.
Although it may seem like a simple task, it isn’t always as easy as it sounds when it comes to expanding your professional network. It takes knowing the right people and a certain amount of luck to pursue a new career change purely through your network. We thought that our candidates could use some help when it comes to networking like a pro. Enjoy this breakdown of what makes up networking and our tips to help you grow your network!
Create a Mix of Formal and Informal Contacts
The key concept to networking is developing contacts that could act as excellent resources or references for you in the future. The contacts you add to your network can be categorized as either formal or informal and should be treated appropriately. Formal contacts are professional contacts that you can call upon in a respectful, non-intrusive manner for help or guidance with things like career advice or to inquire about job openings they may know about. Formal contacts are often easy to talk business with since business is the commonality between you and the contact. You can bring in new formal contacts by going to networking events, connecting with past and current clients or coworkers, reaching out to recruiters, or simply asking for a business card and sending a follow up email.
Informal contacts can include people like friends, family members, and everyone you know on level that is not strictly professional or business related. The informal contacts in your network are often easier to casually socialize with since you may know them on a more personal level than your formal contacts. These contacts may require the right timing to bring up your professional interests, such as pursuing employment. A good time to bring up any professional inquiries you have for these contacts could be inviting them to chat over coffee or by sending them an email and casually expressing your interest in talking about career opportunities. Networking with these contacts at an appropriate time could result in them bringing up a job opening or contacts from their own network that could help you reach your professional goals. Never underestimate the power of your informal contacts, you never know who they might know!
Go To Networking Events
Networking events are valuable because everyone attending the event is in the same boat as you – they want to expand their professional network too! Prepare for networking events by creating a summary of yourself, your skills and experience that you can share with the contacts you meet. Successfully networking at events involves you being able to quickly list the highlights of yourself to help these potential contacts develop a clear image of who you are, what you can do, and what you want to do professionally. If you are good at describing these aspects of your professional self, the contacts you make will be able to think of you specifically when they hear about new career opportunities that would apply to you.
Quick Tips for Networking Events:
- Dress professional
- Get a professional business card to hand out at appropriate times
- Ask for business cards from people you would consider adding to your network
- Keep your resume updated in case someone asks you to follow up with them after the event
- Be respectful when speaking with everyone you meet
- Ask questions and listen to responses – don’t just care about your own self-interests
Make The Most of Online Networking
Networking has evolved to new levels and grown in importance as the popularity of professional networking sites such as LinkedIn has increased. There are a few ways to grow your connections on LinkedIn. You can network directly with connections you already know, reach out to connections you think could be useful but haven’t spoken with yet, and even join networking groups with professionals from your industry of interest. This form of networking is fantastic because you can contact anyone from your online network whenever you want from your phone, tablet, or computer! Be sure that your LinkedIn profile is at full optimization when you start to use your account for networking purposes. You always want to keep your professional information up-to-date so your connections, potential employers, or recruiters can look through your information and can reach out to you if they feel like you would be a good fit for a job opening!
Network With Recruiters
Recruiters are great resources to keep in your professional network. Adding a recruiter from your industry to your network provides you access to many advantages over job seekers who choose to work solo. Recruiters have access to job opportunities from varying companies and are oftentimes the first to know about new job positions, even some that are never posted online. Not only that, but it’s their job to find people jobs! They are very familiar with the process and are fantastic resources to help you out when you are looking for your next job.
Networking is exactly what you make of it. You can’t guarantee that your professional network will bring you your next job, but there is always the possibility that they will. Connect with the right people and see how far networking can take you!
About the Author:
This article is written by Katie McClain, former Digital Marketing Specialist at Automationtechies.
Catch her on LinkedIn.