Networking is your single most important job search activity, but many job seekers avoid it because they don’t know where to start. The first step to networking is to build up your list of contacts. While you may initially feel like you don’t know anyone, you probably have a lot more people in your network than you realize. Here are some sources of new contacts for your network:
Networking events. Industry events provide us with an opportunity to connect with people who are outside of our social circle. At these events you can talk to people who work in your industry and see if they are aware of any opportunities that would be a good fit for your skills. Just come to the networking event prepared to deliver your professional introduction.
Social media. Social media is a powerful tool available to today’s job seeker because it allows you to directly interact with key decision makers. By regularly posting interesting and relevant content, you can establish yourself as a knowledgeable professional in your industry. By sharing and commenting on posts, you can build relationships with other people in your field. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who work at your target companies. Don’t ask them for a job; just let them know that you are trying to progress in your career and ask if they have any tips.
Through your contacts. Even though the easiest way to expand your network is through your existing contacts, many job seekers are reluctant to use their contacts as a resource. You may be surprised to learn that your contacts would actually welcome the opportunity to help you. Just let them know exactly what type of position you are seeking and what type of people you would like to meet. If someone in your network does introduce you to new contact, be professional and remember that the way that you conduct yourself will reflect on the people who vouch for you.
Extracurricular activities. Volunteer and community work is an excellent way for you to build up your network. Often in these types of activities, you are able to build even stronger relationships than you would in a work setting. Try to involve yourself in a variety of activities and make an effort to reach out to people. Don’t be afraid to talk about your career goals; you may find that the person you’ve been working with for years is actually in an excellent position to help you.
Networking is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. While you may not see the benefit of your efforts right away, if you stick with it, it will become your strongest asset as you progress in your career.
(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)