Networking typically involves meeting individuals who share your profession, industry, or interests. But how exactly do you go about networking, and why is it so vital?

Establishing connections with the right people at the right time might be the key to advancing your career. However, if the idea of entering a room full of strangers terrifies you, know that you’re not alone. Many people try to avoid networking entirely, but this approach can hinder their success.

Continue reading to understand what networking entails, why it’s essential for your career progression, and how to network effectively.

What is networking?

Networking involves creating connections that help you learn and achieve your goals, much like when you made friends to join a club on campus – that’s networking in action! It doesn’t have to be intimidating; chances are, you’ve done it before.

Professional networking, however, has a unique twist. It’s about nurturing relationships with other professionals in your industry or related fields. This practice is vital for career growth as it opens doors to new knowledge, opportunities, and connections. Professional networking takes various forms, from attending industry events and engaging in online communities to joining associations and seeking mentorship.

In the professional realm, networking extends beyond formal setups. It can be as straightforward as chatting with colleagues during breaks, exchanging ideas, or collaborating on projects. These informal interactions also serve as valuable networking opportunities, strengthening your connections and fostering your career journey. Remember that networking is not about using others or pushing yourself aggressively—it’s about forming relationships and engaging with different individuals: those you’re familiar with, those you don’t know well, and even complete strangers. Despite seeming daunting, it can be fulfilling and enjoyable, even if you’re naturally shy.

Why is networking vital when looking for a job?

Studies show that around 80% of jobs are secured through networking. Moreover, 70% of jobs are never officially advertised. This highlights the importance of dedicating a significant portion of your time to networking efforts. It’s crucial to diversify your networking strategies to maintain a strong presence in the job market. Exploring various networking approaches can significantly enhance your chances of receiving job offers more quickly. Through effective networking, you can establish connections with individuals employed at your desired company or those capable of offering valuable career guidance for your success. In this article, we’ll explore different networking strategies and how to make the most out of them, providing valuable insights for effective job searching.

Whether you enjoy in-person interactions or prefer connecting online, there are numerous networking techniques that can enhance your job search. Here are some effective tips that could significantly impact your networking success.

1- Get Started

Deciding to begin networking might seem daunting, but remember, you don’t have to start from zero. Your family and friends already form a valuable network with various connections. Your network encompasses a wide range of connections, such as family, friends, roommates, fellow alumni, club members, colleagues past and present, neighbors, and more. Consider individuals from your previous workplaces, school days, religious community, your child’s school, fitness center, online platforms, and your local area. Also, remember those you’ve met through your close contacts, like your sister’s colleague, your friend’s supervisor, your college roommate’s partner, family friends, or even professionals like your doctor, landlord, accountant, and yoga instructor.

Reaching out to your current network is a great way to hone your networking abilities. With time, you’ll gain confidence in broadening your network and forming new connections. Take a moment to sort your existing connections and pinpoint potential opportunities to explore.

2- Refine your list of contact

Consider expanding your network beyond your existing connections by identifying individuals you wish to know better and can realistically connect with. These could include colleagues you haven’t interacted with extensively, individuals you’ve encountered at industry events, or second-degree contacts (friends of friends). To stay organized, create a list of these potential contacts and brainstorm ways to reach out to them. This could involve direct outreach or requesting a mutual connection to introduce you via a letter of introduction.

3- Start by Building Relationships, Not Just Requesting Resume Reviews

Networking is about establishing a connection, not pushing for a hard sell. Kent Lee, a career consultant for Yahoo! and CEO of Perfect Resume, emphasizes the importance of building a relationship first. “Start by asking questions that demonstrate genuine interest and enthusiasm for the executive’s company,” he suggests.

Brandon Lewin, a digital marketing consultant, advises initiating a conversation and focusing on the other person. “Get to know them and make the interaction about them,” he says. “If you find a connection, then politely inquire about the possibility of staying in touch.”

Many people dislike feeling used. Whether you’re meeting someone new or catching up with an old acquaintance, prioritize genuine human connection. Engage by expressing genuine interest, actively listening, and consider offering something valuable like a restaurant recommendation, book suggestion, or expert advice.

Additionally, be mindful of your surroundings, advises recruiting consultant Bill Humbert. He suggests not interrupting an executive’s social or leisure time. Instead, he recommends finding an appropriate moment to chat outside the event. Business conversations are often better suited for corporate or industry-related events.

4- Explore local networking events and trade shows in your area.

A simple way to expand your professional network is by participating in networking events or trade shows. Networking events play a vital role in expanding your professional connections. These gatherings unite individuals from diverse industries and backgrounds, all aiming to establish meaningful professional relationships. These events bring together like-minded individuals, offering an excellent chance to enhance your connections.

Participating in these events offers numerous advantages, including the chance to interact with influential figures and experts in your field, share knowledge and experiences, and develop your networking skills. To make the most of these opportunities, it’s important to prepare beforehand, actively engage during the event, and afterwards, stay in touch with the new contacts you’ve made. By immersing yourself in these events and applying effective strategies, you can broaden your professional network, paving the way for enhanced career and business prospects.

If you’re unsure about finding events near you, platforms like LinkedIn, Meetup, and Eventbrite can assist you. Just search for your industry, and you’ll likely discover various upcoming networking opportunities. Don’t miss out on these valuable events!

5- Set your goal and figure out what you want, Stay focused.

Networking becomes truly effective when you have specific employers and career goals in mind. Sending out generic requests like “let me know if you hear of anything” can be less fruitful. Although you might think keeping your options open is a good strategy, this approach can actually drain the networking potential from your connections.

A vague request for job leads can be worse than not asking at all, as it might lead to losing valuable networking contacts and opportunities. It’s better to ask for precise information, leads, or even an interview. If you’re finding it challenging to focus your job search, consider seeking guidance from close friends and family first. Once you’ve established clear goals, then reach out to your broader network for assistance.

6- Take your time to recognize your industry

Before diving into networking, take a moment to prepare. It’s crucial to keep the conversation flowing naturally when interacting with others. To do so, equip yourself with enough background and knowledge about the topic at hand, enabling you to showcase your understanding and insights effectively.

If you intend to network within a specific industry, ensure you are well-versed in the latest developments within that sector. Familiarize yourself with emerging competitors and industry trends. Your aim should be to appear not merely as an industry observer but as someone genuinely knowledgeable about the ongoing trends and happenings.

Regularly staying updated on the latest developments is essential. For instance, if you’re attending a networking event, take some time beforehand to review the most recent information. This preparation will enable you to keep your knowledge up-to-date and relevant as you engage in conversations.

7- Seek advice

Begin by asking for a short meeting, a phone call, or even a casual coffee chat to seek the person’s insights on career opportunities in the industry. Emphasize that your intention is not to ask for a job directly, especially when contacting individuals who might not be very familiar with you yet.

Most people are willing to offer advice if you approach them respectfully and make the process convenient for them. If you leave a positive impression, your contact is more likely to consider you when they come across new opportunities in the future.

When reaching out to connections within your industry or at a company you’re interested in, consider requesting a formal informational interview. Be sure to prepare thoroughly for this interview to leave a strong and positive impression.

8- Practice your body language and confidence

Approaching someone professionally can be daunting, but considering the significance of networking, it’s worth going the extra mile to practice your approach. Effective communication isn’t just about your words; it also involves your facial expressions and tone of voice. To come across positively:

  • Maintain good eye contact, focusing near their eyes without staring intently.
  • Be mindful of your facial expression, aiming for a serious yet friendly demeanor.
  • Use appropriate gestures; while too many movements can be overwhelming, well-chosen gestures enhance engagement.
  • Stand tall to project confidence.
  • Speak clearly and confidently to ensure your message is understood without confusion. Practice these aspects, and you’ll make a strong impression during your interactions.

9- Don’t let social media use you, you use it!

Embracing social media, particularly LinkedIn, can significantly broaden your professional connections. LinkedIn is the go-to platform for 87% of recruiters and hiring managers when searching for job candidates. While optimizing your LinkedIn profile is essential, active participation in relevant groups is equally important. Engaging in meaningful discussions not only showcases your expertise but also attracts like-minded individuals who appreciate your insights. Many professionals have found new opportunities through casual conversations on platforms like LinkedIn.

Moreover, indicating your job search status on LinkedIn offers valuable market insights and can lead to potential referrals from your existing contacts. Joining industry-specific groups or alumni networks provides avenues for exchanging ideas, staying updated on news, and connecting with professionals who share your interests. These online interactions can pave the way for valuable partnerships and collaborations in your professional journey.

10- Identify shared interests or connections

Remember, everyone you meet at a business networking event is just like you—a person with interests and experiences beyond their job title.

Avoid making conversations awkward by focusing solely on professional topics. Instead, ask about their hobbies and interests outside of work. You might be surprised to find common ground that can help you form a genuine connection. Having a few general questions ready can make these conversations flow naturally.

11- Ask relative questions

Certainly, asking thoughtful questions during your initial conversation can establish a meaningful connection with someone new. People generally enjoy discussing their experiences, so inquire about their career journey and interests.

During this conversation, your goal should be to understand your new acquaintance and identify how they might contribute to your network. Remember, you’re not seeking a job; you’re simply gathering information.

Here are some questions you might consider asking when meeting someone for the first time:

○ How did you embark on your current career path?
○ What aspects of your job do you find most fulfilling?
○ If given the chance, would you choose the same career again, or opt for a different path?

These questions can help foster a meaningful discussion, enabling you to learn more about the person and potentially forge a valuable connection.

12- Diversify your Network for Job Success

Building a robust professional network involves balancing “strong” and “weak” ties. While strong ties are vital, cultivating new weak ties injects vitality and cognitive flexibility into your network. Strengthen your network by tapping into existing connections and engaging your inner circle to bridge gaps. Consider your future goals when expanding your network, focusing on desired industries and interests. Make networking a habit, integrating it into your lifestyle like an exercise routine. Stay connected to the changing professional landscape and offer support to others to create a manageable and thriving network.

13- Request a professional reference for employment or a recommendation on LinkedIn

Securing a job offer often requires strong references. Maintain connections with former bosses and coworkers who you intend to use as references. Request LinkedIn recommendations from individuals familiar with your work to enhance your profile. Additionally, some colleagues might publicly share their positive experiences with you on LinkedIn or industry-related platforms, adding to your credibility.

14- Maintain your Network

Nurture your professional network by following these guidelines:

Focus on Quality over Quantity: Building a valuable network requires meaningful relationships, not just a large number of contacts. Quality connections bring knowledge, expertise, and opportunities.

Schedule Time with Key Contacts: Identify important people in your network and reconnect with them. Schedule regular meetings or calls without needing a specific reason; these interactions provide insights and strengthen bonds.

Prioritize Reconnections: Maintain a list of valuable contacts you want to reconnect with. Prioritize these connections and integrate them into your routine to ensure consistent communication.

Take Detailed Notes: Keep track of essential information about your contacts, including their family, job, interests, and needs. Document these details on business cards or in your contact database for reference.

Reciprocate: Successful networking involves reciprocity. Send notes, inquire about their well-being, share relevant articles, and periodically check in. Nurturing relationships ensures ongoing support, advice, and mutual benefit.

Show Gratitude: Express appreciation for the help you receive from your networking contacts. Thank them sincerely when their efforts lead to positive outcomes like interviews or job offers. Consider gestures like taking them out for a meal. Don’t forget to send thank-you notes, especially after accepting a job offer.

Embrace Patience: Understand that networking isn’t a quick fix for job searching. Building relationships takes time, and you need to invest effort into getting to know people. Trust that these efforts will yield results, even if it takes time.

Stay Connected: Maintain relationships even after securing a job. Networking isn’t just about finding employment; your contacts can assist you in various aspects of your career and life. Never stop networking, as your network can provide crucial support when you need it in the future.

15- Be Positive and do not give up

How you present yourself can have a significant impact on the kind of impression you make. While it’s easy to become discouraged in the middle of a long job search, it’s important to remain positive and optimistic when introducing yourself to others.

Broadcasting your frustrations will only make it more difficult to gain new connections. Even if you’re coming out of a tough situation, be sure to project confidence.

References:

  1. PremiumGuest
  2. UpWork
  3. FlexJobs
  4. Forbes
  5. BetterUp
  6. HelpGuide
  7. BigInterview
  8. Coursera
  9. GCF Global