In the post about Who’s on Your Bench, we focused on those that are close to you that are so important to us in life. However, it’s good to think wider, as very often, it may be your weaker connections that can be the source of new opportunities (e.g., someone you once met who works for the company you would love to work for).
So what is networking for job-hunting?
Networking in principle – ‘In essence when you network you make a conscious decision to make the most of every contact (new and existing) you have and treat very single encounter as a job lead.’ (source Brilliant Graduate Career Handbook)
‘You are between 50 and 70 per cent likely to create your next career opportunity through your network, i.e., via people you know through University, work, family and socially.’ (source Brilliant Career Coach)
Networking can be a way to ask for help, information & advice and as a way of developing further contacts. We do it all the time in our lives but sometimes don’t really think about it or consider how it can be applied to the career context. It can sometimes make you cringe. This comedy sketch captures some of the stereotyped ideas about networking events, which I’m including for your amusement.
Why bother with networking?
Did you know that many jobs don’t get advertised? If they do, knowing someone in an organisation can help you find out about opportunities you may overlook. Networking isn’t just about landing a job though, it’s a life skill, growing and nurturing your network will help you as you develop your career.
Networking is always two-way. Never think of it as just how can I use my contacts to help me. A very clever networking tip is offering to help people you admire first, knowing that they might be willing to reciprocate in the future. Reciprocity is key.
Steps for networking
Mapping your network – Create a mind map of your network. Draw it out. Reflect on who you know – your family, friends, former lecturers, colleagues and former colleagues, friends on social media. There are some apps connected to social media sites which can actually allow you to map your network and visualise how your connections relate to each other.
Be clear on your purpose – When thinking about networking, consider what your purpose is. Who do you want to target? Do you want to get information for your career, the job market, about sources of vacancies, potential opportunities? Do you want to get advice about your chances of getting certain jobs, the strength of, and any gaps on your CV, feedback on your portfolio? Or do you want to get further contacts?
Get out of your comfort zone – Depending on how confident you are – for many of us networking means getting out of our comfort zone. If the whole idea of networking makes you want to run to the hills, you won’t be alone, but you may need to face your fears! One way to build your confidence generally, is to aim to go somewhere once a week where you are likely to meet people you don’t know, so you can practise your ability to introduce yourself to others (there’s a challenge for you).
‘Warm’ versus ‘cold’ networking – It’s always easier to approach networking through warm contacts rather than speculatively. Prioritise warm contacts, and seek out ways to grow these. This means being proactive and maximising the number of people you know professionally. You can aim to seek out your next opportunity via contacts, with a view to make referred but speculative applications.
Be organised in your approach – Always keep a note of who you have contacted and when. If you do manage to set up a meeting or a phone conversation with a possible contact, prepare some questions beforehand. Always pay attention to detail, and thank people for their help. If a contact puts you in touch with somebody else, always follow this up. If you don’t, let your contact know that you chose not to due to a change in circumstances. Build a reputation of respect and reliability.
Virtual and face-to-face networking – Getting the balance right between face-to-face and virtual networking is tricky. Both have their place and it’s good to get them working together. Social media may allow you to make connections with people you don’t actually know in person but over time, you may well meet. The virtual world can also allow you to keep in touch with people who you know in person but perhaps live in different cities or countries. Scope for networking is enormous, but virtual communication also notoriously gives lots of scope for tripping up and annoying people, so be careful! Don’t be someone that continually self-promotes what you are doing and doesn’t seem interested in others. Be persistent but refrain from cyber-stalking!
So I’d definitely recommend making use of social media but be clear on your goals, and which platform would suit you best for the field you are in. LinkedIn is more business-orientated, whereas Instagram and Facebook may work best for creative types. Be strategic and review what you are doing regularly. You just never know where it could lead.
OK – so where to start?
Everyone is at a different stage with networking but let’s focus here on doing it online.
Reflect on the following questions and make a few notes.
Read about a recent Salford graduate who has used networking to help her get started in her career.
Career player video on using social media
Career player video on networking
Meet up groups – these are networking groups you can sign up for to meet people who share your interests