At some point in our careers, we look to change jobs, whether it’s voluntary or involuntary. Since 80% of jobs are found through networking, it should be an essential part of any job search strategy.
Although networking can be unfamiliar and uncomfortable, if you know what it means and become good at it, it can be of tremendous value.
Here are some things you can do to assist in your networking efforts:
• Make a List. Formulate a list of people whom you trust and will advocate on your behalf. This list can and should include past and present co-workers, as well as people from your professional and personal communities.
• Connect. Make a point to connect with the people on your list. Call and ask to meet for coffee. Let them know that you are starting a job search and want to network. Be prepared to share what you have done since you last spoke, as well as your new career goals. Remember, you’re not asking them for a job. You just want them to understand what you do, your value, interests, passions, and goals, so they can refer you, if they know of a possible job match or otherwise aid in your pursuit.
• Reciprocate. You’ll likely find reconnecting and sharing information to be mutually beneficial. Ask what you can do for your connection. Be thoughtful and ready to reciprocate.
• Expand Your Network. Attend networking events that are geared toward your interests (i.e. entrepreneurship, technology, marketing, etc.). Such events allow you to meet new people and offer an opportunity to expand and enrich your networking group. Go to events with an open mind, a purpose, and realistic expectations. Don’t expect a networking event to you to your dream job. Instead, view it as an opportunity to broaden your knowledge of the job market and business landscape. Be engaging, enjoy yourself, and be prepared to share your experiences and interests. Practice the art of marketing yourself.
• Follow-up. Exchange business cards and follow up with those with whom you felt a good rapport or connection. Ask them to coffee and build new relationships.
When it comes to networking, it is up to you to take the initiative and get out there … no matter how uncomfortable networking makes you feel. Most people fill jobs with referrals. So the returns on your networking investment can be huge. Just persevere, develop the skill, and do it effectively.
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Uli Stewart is the recruiting manager at Vantage Point Recruiting.