Step 6: Build a Network

network

When you network, you look for people who may be able to assist you with your career development. You meet people and develop relationships with them to build a network of valued and trusted contacts.

Many jobs are not publically advertised and networking can be your connection to the hidden job market. You should understand that you are not asking for a job when you network. You are asking for information and advice.  When you market your skills and interests to the right people, potential employers who are looking to fill positions will find you. Networking can be intimidating and challenging. Some interactions will be better than others.  Like anything else it gets easier with practice, so just keep trying.

Why Network?
  • You will meet people who can serve as mentors, partners and clients.
  • You will be exposed to new opportunities and ideas.
  • You will make new friends who will share information, advice and a positive outlook.
How do you prepare to network?
  1. Identify your needs and interests; What are you trying to achieve by building your network and who are the types of people you would like to meet?
  2. Set goals to keep yourself motivated; How many people would you like to add to your network? How many events would you like to attend? Organize a set time once a week for networking so you are more likely to do it.
  3. Create an elevator pitch; Imagine that you are in an elevator with a potential employer and you only have 30 seconds between floors to “sell” or promote yourself. What would you say? Develop this ‘elevator pitch’ and use it as your introduction for meeting new people.
  4. Research potential connections before you approach contacts; When you show interest in them, you will be more successful.
  5. Remember to keep interactions simple; Make clear and effective connections without wasting peoples’ time. Don’t expect a response each time.  Most people do not have the time to get back to everyone who contacts them.
How do you build your network?
  1. Informally; Networking starts with people you already know. Your informal connections with friends, family and acquaintances both in and outside of your career field are extremely valuable. Talk to them about their career decisions and goals. Ask them for ideas, names and contacts of people who could help you succeed. Networking is less intimidating if you start with people you know.
  2. Formally; Professional associations or settlement agencies may offer more formal connections. Become involved with either group to help you build your network. There is a professional association for nearly every career, and settlement agencies offer programs that may connect you with the right people. They will provide you with formal opportunities to market yourself through networking events, conferences, workshops, mentoring programs and job boards. They will also have a social media presence. Consider following them to get a sense of the kind of activities and programs they offer.
  3. Social media; Many individuals and organization have a social media presence. It is a powerful networking resource. If you already have an online presence, review your online profiles, photos and interactions. You want to make a positive impression. If you don’t belong to any social networks, sign up and get active. Make sure your profiles are professional, with appropriate handles and images. Include your skills and describe what you are looking for. Add links to your website or other social media profiles. Connect with influential people, participate in conversations and share content. Be careful not to overburden potential connections via social media.
  • LinkedIn; Follow organizations of interest, join groups that are relevant to your field and update your profile with career related posts. Use features such as the job and alumni search tools. Contact alumni from your own school or who work at your target job. Do so periodically and personalize each message.
  • Twitter; Follow relevant people and organizations, retweet, reply or direct messages to them to establish connections. Tweet links to relevant articles or samples of your work. Use hashtags to search for people or jobs and join Tweetchats or Tweetups.
  • Facebook;  Professionalize your profile and use privacy settings to manage who can view personal versus professional content. Build your network by “liking” professional organizational pages, and request to join relevant groups. Start discussions with people and organizations by answering questions, commenting, messaging and linking to informative content through wall posts or status updates. Use the Facebook Marketplace job board and other job search apps like BeKnown or BranchOut.
  • Google+; You may be "googled", so you should have a presence in Google+. Use the circles feature to create circles that include professionals in your target industry. Participate in hangouts relevant to your interests. Some employers may even host information session hangouts.