It’s not what you know but who you know.
For those with connections, these are the greatest words of wisdom ever uttered. For those without, hearing this can be as discouraging as hearing Nicki Minaj as #1 on the weekend’s top 40 chart.
For many students and recent grads looking to enter the workforce for the first time, networking might be something which you aren’t exactly sure how to approach.
However, it just might be the key to locating and locking down that dream job.
Networking gives you an edge
Networking allows you to chat and connect with people you might not have otherwise had the chance to meet. Being able to put a face to a name will make you more memorable, and gives you an advantage in your job search. “Caroline? Oh yes, I met her at that event last week. Nice girl. Let’s keep her resume.”
It also allows you to create a list of contacts to refer to if you ever find yourself out of work. You have people to call to let them know you’re looking and to potentially get something lined up.
Effective networking starts with people you already know
Paresh Mistry, Vice President at Robert Half Canada, offered me his “ABCs of Networking” outlining three key strategies for effective networking:
1. Always leverage your existing network
The majority of us already have a network (friends, family, friends of the family, neighbours, etc.). The key is to tap into that network by not only letting them know you’re looking for work but what kind of work and what skills you’ll bring to that.
These people won’t give you a job but will be able to funnel information back to you and pass your name around to other people they may bump into. “There’s an opening in your company? I actually think I might know someone…”
2. Broaden your base
Take a critical look at the network you already have and see, as Paresh puts it, “where your buckets are full and where they are empty.” If you’re looking to get into marketing but none of your contacts are in that field, this is something you need to focus your energy on. Determine which companies and networking events you need to pursue.
3. Create an elevator pitch
Paresh described this to me as a “30-second sales pitch you can give on a moment’s notice about yourself and what you can deliver.” He suggests formally writing one out and rehearsing it so whenever you’re put on the spot about your job search, you’re prepared. “Make sure it’s short, relevant and speaks to what your skills are.”
Networking exists online (whether you like it or not)
Social media has changed the face of networking and has been the source for tons of people to get interviews and land jobs. Having an online presence is becoming increasingly important to today’s job market.
That being said, “If you can’t maintain your online presence, you’ll end up doing more harm than good,” Paresh says. All social media platforms – even ones like Facebook which are meant more for your personal life – should be professional. All profile pictures and status updates should be workplace appropriate.
Also, having recommendations from previous employers or even professors reflected on your pages gives you an edge and helps you stand out.
Everyone makes networking mistakes, but you can avoid these common ones
1. Treating it as a one way street
Those new to the networking world often think only about what’s in it for them when they should be viewing it as going both ways. “Sure, you’re looking for work but someone may come along and ask you for a referral or something and you should be willing to help them out,” Paresh says. This acts as a great way to further develop and maintain contacts.
2. Being overly aggressive
Ask for help. Ask for help again. After the second time, stop asking. “People may not be in a position to help you, so you need to know what your limits are,” Paresh says.
3. Giving up
Sometimes a networking attempt doesn’t go well, causing, young people to give up on it completely. “Networking is ongoing,” Paresh says. “You have to attend more than one event and just keep at it.” Like everything in life, the more you do it the better you’ll be at and the more you’ll start to get out of it in return.