Many surveys show that networking accounts for up to 70% of job placements.
Most people enjoy giving advice and being able to assist someone else. But for some people networking can seem a rather distasteful concept – something that lacks sincerity, and is using people for personal gain. However, when you think about it, we are always establishing contacts with others in our lives when we need information or advice:
e.g. ‘I want someone to flat-sit. Do you know anyone reliable?’ or ‘Can you recommend a good mechanic?’
In the world of work, most of us have or know someone who has obtained information about a job or a job itself by way of a contact; or have employed someone based on a colleague’s recommendation. So ‘networking’ in the career sense is simply taking our social networking skills and applying them to our job search or career planning.
Networking helps you: tap into the hidden job market, that is, jobs that are not advertised; clarify your career direction by talking to people in the industry or sector in which you wish to work; and gives you the opportunity to support others. So networking is an important skill in gathering information, gaining feedback, for referrals to other people, obtaining experience and doing the same for others.
You will need to identify what your aim is in networking. Do you want to:
- make connections with people who work in a field that interests you?
- gather information from people who will help you to determine your career path?
- establish contacts with people who maybe in a position to offer employment
- offer advice and support to others?
If you are clear about your aim/s, then the people with whom you network will also be clear about your intention.
Your closest networks will probably be your family and friends and you may feel more comfortable approaching them first. Make a list of other people who could assist you and begin approaching them e.g.:
- Professional people whose service you use (i.e. travel agent, lawyer, accountant)
- Former students from school, college or university
- Current experts in your chosen field
- Members of clubs to which you belong (i.e. sporting, community, political)
- Work colleagues
- Relevant professional associations
Keep a record of all your new contacts and the people who referred you to them. Ask permission to use their name when making contact with others. Remember that each person you speak to will usually be able to refer you to another, so your network will continue to expand. Think about who you can refer new contacts to as well.
It is very important to prepare for the meeting with your contact. You want to make a good impression, so dress appropriately and do your preparation:
- Research the organisation that your contact works for
- Put together a portfolio of your qualifications, résumé, references etc.
- Be able to talk about your skills and experience
- Compile questions which will give you information regarding your aim/s
‘Can you tell me about your career to date?’
‘What is a typical day for you?’
‘What particular skills, experiences and qualifications do you think are important in order to be successful?’
‘How did you get into this particular type of work/role?’
‘What do you enjoy about your work?’
‘What are the career possibilities in this field?’
‘Where do you think the industry/sector will be in 5 years time?’
‘Do you know of anyone I could talk further with about…?’
Most people have limited time, so listen carefully, and make notes. If you can’t meet face-to-face, preparation still needs to be done before you make telephone or email contact.
Always follow-up contact with a thank you note and keep in touch with people who have assisted you. Networking is two-way process and you will be asked for help at some stage in your career too.
Networking is not always a quick fix, if you don’t like the thought of it, take out the word networking and think about having mutually beneficial conversations and building relationships.