5 Tips to Master Professional Networking
By: Sarah Murphy & Maribeth Gunner Pulliam
One of the most important activities for a truly successful job search is networking. Career experts agree that career networking is one of the most effective ways to find and obtain a job. While classified ads and online job boards might give you a few places to start, the vast majority of job openings are never advertised. Job seekers need to have a network of contacts, or a career network, that can provide support, information, and job leads. Has been awhile since your last job hunt? Feeling a little rusty? Here are a few tips to oil those networking tools and techniques:
- Look at Who You Already Know
Career networking can begin with the people closest to you: friends, family, neighbors, community members, and past employers you have maintained relationships with. Let everyone know your overall career goals and the type of job you are seeking. You never know who will have a contact who is aware of an opening in your field. This primary group is also a good place to begin when you are creating leads for informational interviews, another networking strategy that is proven to be incredibly beneficial for job-seekers and explorers, alike. Which leads us to:
- Set Up an Informational Interview
Informational interviews can help job seekers gain firsthand knowledge in the career they are exploring. Not only will you become more well-informed, but you’ll get to make a connection to someone in your field of interest. Setting up an interview with someone you already know, know through mutual contacts, or connected with through a cold call are all good ways to grow your professional network. Interviewing someone, whether you know them or not, can be an unsettling experience, but you’ll find that most interviewees are excited to talk about their field and eager to lend advice.
- Become a Member
An additional resource not to be over looked when establishing a network is professional associations. Memberships to professional associations in your career field are not only beneficial for networking, but also keep you apprised of the most current information in the field.
- Have a Social Media Presence
We have all witnessed how social media has revolutionized life as we know it, and job networking is no exception, making it another source of network building. Social networking has already become deeply rooted in the vast majority of everyday life; we use it for entertainment, communication, and more often now for job seeking. The benefits to online networking are that most information is well-organized and can be accessed quickly. Job seekers can easily identify friends and acquaintances who can provide promising connections. Additionally, employers have also increasingly found online networks helpful in locating and screening new hires
Bonus Tip – There are a large selection of social networking sites to choose from, and LinkedIn.com is one of the largest and most popular networking sites. However, Twitter and Facebook are popular mediums, as well. As useful as social networks can be for job hunting, it is also important to be cautious when using these platforms. Knowing the basic ‘dos and don’ts’ of social media will help maintain a professional and positive persona. It’s important to note that while many people have found online networking to be an extremely helpful tool, don’t put your entire job search hopes into online networking. It’s just one of the many tools in your networking toolbox.
- Remember You’re Building a Relationship
All your network connections, traditional or online, are not just there to help you. It is a reciprocal relationship. Build the relationships within your network by staying in contact and offering to help others when you can. Whether you are actively job hunting or secure and satisfied in your current position, you should always remain engaged in your network. Then, if you are looking for a promotion, or perhaps find yourself without a job, you can rely on your network to give you job leads and provide references to help you take the next step in your career.
A strong network can give you an advantage in your job hunt. Building a professional network takes time and effort. However, it is well worth the effort. Successful people realize that one of the best ways to advance in your career is through networking. To learn more about this essential strategy, and how to further develop your career plan, check out the links below:
How To Build and Expand your Career Network: 10 Proved Techniques for Job-Seekers
Career Networking Do’s and Don’ts for Job-Seekers
Researching Employers Through Informational Interviews
Seven Rules for Networking Success
Social and Career Networking Sites are the Latest Tools for Job Seekers and Employers
Social Savvy: Position Yourself for Career Success Using Social Media
A Conversation Worth Having: Reap the Benefits of Informational Interviewing
Visit the Excelsior College Career Center for more networking resources and other helpful tips and tools for your career.