If you are looking for a job, you know you are supposed to “network.” But what does networking really mean?
If you have been spending time on a job search, you have probably heard people talk about the importance of networking. But what does networking mean? And how do you do it?
Networking, in short, is developing positive relationships with people in your career field. It’s developing a “network” or “web” of colleagues, co-workers, mentors, or others in your field. If you put effort into it, your network can continue to grow throughout your lifetime.
What Networking Can and Can’t Do for You
Networking is important to the job search, but keep in mind that the people in your network will not necessarily be able to find you a job. Networking is a process—not a quick fix. But considering that many jobs are gotten through word-of-mouth, it’s important to begin developing contacts in your field.
Here are some ways that people in your network may be able to help you:
- Give you advice on your career skills and how to improve them
- Suggest companies or organizations that you might want to apply to
- Tell you about a job opening they heard about in your field
- Personally send your resume to a hiring manager where they work
- Serve as a reference for you
- Tell you how they started out in the field and offer advice
- Connect you with someone who will give you an informational interview
- Invite you to a social or professional event to meet others in your field
- Review your resume for you
How to Start Job Networking in a New Field
If you are new to your career field, you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of networking. Here are some tips and suggestions for you to consider.
1. Start with people you know. Make a list of friends, family members, co-workers from previous jobs, bosses from previous jobs, former instructors or teachers, neighbors, and even people you see regularly as a customer, such as your pharmacist, family doctor, or dentist. You will be surprised at how big your personal network already is. When you are ready to start reaching out to people, start slowly. Practice with a friend to get more comfortable talking about your career goals.
2. Be specific about what you want. When you are networking, it’s best to be specific about what you want. You will want to be able to talk about your specific job goals and to name some specific companies where you would like to work. This helps give the listener a clear idea of how they can help. Once you are comfortable talking about this with a friend, try some others on your list. You may find that people are eager to reach into their own networks to help you get connected in your new field.
3. Remember the Career Services department. Most colleges and career schools have career development departments and job-seekers’ resources. Make an appointment and ask an advisor for help. Find out if there is an alumni group. There may be alumni events where you can meet with alumni in your career field.
4. Find a volunteer opportunity in your career field or a similar field. Volunteer work can be a great way to learn on-the-job skills, bolster your reputation, meet others in your field, and feel good about what you are doing. But remember, it is important to take your volunteer work seriously—to treat it like a job. This will help establish you as a person who is reliable and professional.
5. Ask for informational interviews. Try to secure an informational interview with someone who is already established in the field. If the person does not have time to meet with you in person, see if he or she would be willing to have an email discussion with you about their career.
6. Keep your business networking profiles up-to-date and professional. If you use LinkedIn or another professional networking site, be sure to keep your profile up to date. Accept connections from others, and reach out to people you want to be connected with. Use the networking sites as a place to organize your contacts and your career history.
7. Consider joining a professional organization. Professional organizations can offer a lot of resources, from continuing education and conferences to professional publications. If you join such an organization, see if they hold events or conferences where you can meet others in your field.
8. Join a job seekers support group. Some churches and social service agencies have support groups that may have additional resources. In these support groups, you may be able to widen your network and share your contacts with others.
9. Attend job fairs in your region. Set yourself a goal when you decide to attend a job fair. For example, set a goal of talking with at least five representatives. This gives you a chance to gain confidence in “selling” your credentials.
10. Don’t be shy. Many people find it difficult to ask others for help. But remember, many people truly enjoy helping others and sharing their expertise, and will be happy to be part of your network.
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to give back! Once you have established a network, remember that it is your responsibility to give back and help others whenever you can. Keep track of the names and contact information of everyone in your network. Periodically get in touch with them, even if it’s just for social reasons. Be sure to share information, advice, and your own expertise with others. If you take the time to nurture your network relationships, they can serve as a support system throughout your career.
We hope this article has helped you get a better understanding of job networking techniques. We wish you luck as you expand your network and pursue your career!
This article was provided by the Harris School of Business, serving adult learners with career-focused education since 1965. The Harris School offers programs in medical assistant training, massage therapy training, dental assistant training, health claims specialist (medical billing and coding training), as well as other programs in the fields of allied health and business management.