By Annette Filler, Next Steps Canada
We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know that makes the difference.”
It is also said that only up to about one quarter of all available jobs are formally advertised. The implication for job seekers is that you have to look for more innovative and effective ways of conducting your job search.
Networking can be a powerful tool when conducted properly and can put you in contact with people that will help to take your career where you want to go.
Networking can be defined as: Establishing, building and cultivating a mutually beneficial, win-win relationship.
The end result is a list of contacts who might be able to help you with your career or your job search now and in the future.
Here are some tips (5 to get you started) that you can use to build, establish and nurture your network:
Tip #1: Brainstorm for contacts
- Don’t limit yourself!
- Colleagues/former employers
- Members of professional organizations
- Professors/course instructors/alumni associations
- Convention attendees
- Volunteer opportunities
Tip #2: Be prepared
Networking is a little like planning a political campaign. While it’s essential that you are honest and relaxed, you should not wing it. Approach networking opportunities with a game plan.
Before you enter a business conference room, a dinner party or any group event, make sure to do your homework. Find out who will be there. Think critically about your goals for the networking function. What information do you want to walk away with? What do you want to convey to the people you meet?
Tip #3: Make follow up meaningful
After you meet with a contact, it is absolutely essential to write a thank you note. Tell your contact how much he or she helped you and refer to something specific they may have said. Everyone – even the most high-level executive – likes to feel appreciated.
Make sure to keep in touch with your contacts. This way, they may think of you if an opportunity comes up and they will be forthcoming with new advice. It is important to stay on their radar screens without being imposing or invasive.
And of course, if you get that new job, be sure to tell them and thank them again for their help.
Tip #4: What goes around comes around
If you want to be treated with respect then you must treat others with respect. If you want your phone calls and emails returned, call and write back to the people who contact you. If you want people with influence to make time for you, make yourself available to others whom you might be able to help. It’s that simple.
Networking isn’t just about an end goal (i.e., getting a job). It’s a give and take situation, and sometimes the most beneficial thing you can do is offer to help someone in your network. Helping someone else often helps to build a stronger relationship and there is a greater likelihood that they’ll want to do you a favour in the future (like give you the inside scoop on a job they know you’ll be perfect for!).
Tip #5: Stay organized
This may seem obvious, but it is critical to your networking success – always stay organized. Keep a record of your networking in a notebook or on an excel file. It’s important to keep track of your contacts. Make sure your system has plenty of room to capture all contact information, dates, how you met them and subsequent conversations you’ve had with them.
Although networking can be daunting, the best way to start building your network is to just get out there and do it! Remember the adage that there are only six degrees of separation between you and anyone else. Who is it you want to meet? They may not be as far from reach as you might think!
Annette Filler is Managing Partner of Next Steps Canada. Next Steps Canada Career Pursuit is specifically designed and developed to provide recent graduates with focus and direction, useful tools, personal advice and an experienced sounding board to help determine the necessary first steps needed to complete a comprehensive job search and initiate a successful career path.