We’ve all heard the phrase “it’s all about who you know” in regards to landing a job. This really isn’t an exaggeration when it comes to the job market. Having the right connection can make all the difference between “you’re hired” and chirping crickets.
Studies suggest that 70 percent of jobs are never advertised on job classifieds and 80 percent of positions are filled because somebody knew somebody. That’s right, a connection is paramount if you want to get your foot in the door and secure that dream job you’ve had your eye on.
When it comes to making those connections and learning about the unannounced job roles, networking is the key to the castle. Sure, credentials are still important, but if a person knows how to network the right way, they have an advantage that will be of serious benefit throughout their professional lives.
Before we jump into how to network the right way, it would be beneficial to spend a moment talking about what not to do. Avoid the mistake of only networking when you need a job. Reaching out to network only when you need something won’t help foster a genuine connection and gives off the stench of desperation. Networking should be about building mutually beneficial relationships, not self-serving ones.
Alright, let’s dive into how to go about developing a networking strategy that’s about more than collecting business cards and LinkedIn connects.
1. Make a List of Who You Already Know
There’s a real good chance that you already know a lot more people than you think. One of the best ways to network and expand your connections is by reconnecting with those you already know. Scroll through your social media feeds and jot down those folks that you maybe haven’t spoken to in a while.
A few circles to consider:
- Past jobs
- Old friends from college
- Church acquaintances
- Hobby groups or sports league teammates
The idea here is to start with who you already know — particularly those that may be in or have connections to your career field. Even if it’s somebody that you haven’t spoken to in years, add them to the list. Casting a wide net is better than a single line here.
2. Reach Out to Those Established Connections
Now’s when you simply want to reach out to some of these connections. Something as simple as a quick email asking how they’ve been and what they’ve been up to is a great way to get started.
Blasting off an email or text to somebody you haven’t spoken to in six years might feel awkward, but don’t let that deter you. You should trust that they’ll probably enjoy hearing from you and catching up.
It’s not just about who you know, but who they know as well. Set aside your pride and ask if they know anybody in your related field they could introduce you to. Remember, the people you know are your allies when it comes to expanding your network and building new professional relationships.
3. Listen and Learn
Expanding and building a network of strong networking connections involves a mindset that’s focused on listening and learning. Whether you’ve emailed a connection that an old work colleague gave you, or you’re making small talk with a stranger at a business conference, an eagerness to learn goes a long way. It shows you have a natural interest in the other person and what they do.
If the person is working in the field that you’re trying to break into, now’s your time to come with a few questions regarding what their role looks like or any advice they might have regarding the field. You should be listening twice as much as you’re speaking.
4 Look for How You Can Be Useful
It’s easy to think of networking as a way of getting something for yourself, but that’s not the goal here. The goal is to build new relationships. It’s out of those that opportunities come along.
A good mindset to have in networking is to think about how you might be able to contribute or add value — without the expectation of something in return. It’s just this sort of mind flip that can make a big difference.
You may know somebody who is perfect for a role their company is looking to fill, but how you add value may not even be career-related. For example, perhaps during your conversation, they mention a love of biking and you know somebody who runs a cycling hobbyist group. Put that out there! It’s those sorts of interactions that lay the groundwork for building relationships.
5. Put Your Successes Out There
There’s a good possibility that at some point during networking, somebody is going to ask about what it is you do. This is your chance to share just what it is that’s so special about you, so be ready. Share what you’ve done in the past and why you’re passionate about your chosen field or the field you’d like to be in.
You’ll probably want to keep this relatively short, a few sentences or 90 seconds should suffice. If they want to know more, they’ll certainly ask.
6. Expand Your Potential Networking Horizons
Scroll through your mental rolodex of people you know for a second. You probably know at least one person who is always doing something with one group or another, right? And this person probably knows everybody and their cousin, right? Well, there’s a good reason for that — they put themselves out there.
Networking mixers are fine, but they can also be counterproductive and feel more like business card trading events. Joining professional or civic groups can be a fantastic way of meeting new people, as can volunteering or various hobbyist groups.
Even if the event or group isn’t business-related, there’s still value in making and building upon new connections.
7. Don’t Just Scroll LinkedIn, Be Active
LinkedIn was built for networking, but a lot of us are probably guilty of not making the most of it. Not to worry, there’s an easy fix for this, it just means getting off your digital butt and getting active.
Rather than simply scrolling your feed, engage with the content you see. Like it, share it, comment on it — and add your own content. This could be an article you really enjoyed, a professional milestone, or simply an observation about an aspect of your industry.
You don’t need to get obsessive about engaging with a connection’s content on LinkedIn, but by regularly doing so, you’ll slowly build a familiarity with one another. Check out this article and learn how to network on LinkedIn: How to Network on LinkedIn (6 Dos and Don’ts)
8. Follow up and Nurture Those Connections
People aren’t sitting around thinking about ways they can offer you a great job. You have to present the possibility for that to happen and this means staying in touch with networking connections.
If you recently met somebody at an event, through another contact or simply connected on LinkedIn, a good rule of thumb is to send an email or text a day or two later. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated, simply “enjoyed meeting you” or “thanks for the advice” will work.
Take the time to occasionally touch base and maintain this new connection, but be patient. Remember, networking the right way is about organically fostering a professional relationship.
9. Make Everyday Networking Part of Your Life
There’s no reason to wait for a big networking event, there are opportunities to network, build, and strengthen connections all the time.
Make it a goal for yourself to reach out to a few of those old LinkedIn contacts that you haven’t spoken to since you connected with them five years ago. Chat with your neighbors and the guy or gal who makes your morning cup of coffee. And do it over and over again.
Adopting the mindset of making everyday networking a part of your life will eventually make it feel like second nature!
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Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU @soyhivan via unsplash.com