How to Network
Networking is simply building positive relationships with others to help each other with career goals.
Your network is everyone you know — or should get to know — who can help with your career goals.
Networking involves talking with people, formally or informally, who might know about specific topics, such as where to find a good barber, or what company might be hiring. Everyone networks — at school, church, social activities, work, and online.
You network because you want help with professional and personal goals (e.g., job search). It also helps you connect with and help others with shared interests.
Networking is not the same as asking for a job.
Usually your networking contacts will not be hiring managers. Plus, an employer who is not hiring today may be looking for someone like you tomorrow. So you never know where your next job lead might come.
People who are good at making connections and nurturing relationships can learn inside information needed for their job search and ongoing professional and personal development. Often job listings that are never advertised are filled by people who have network connections with the right people.
But how do you form a network? Don't worry. Even if you've never officially done it before, simply follow these tips to successful networking.
Make a List of Contacts
List people who might be able to help you answer your job search questions. Start talking with them. These contacts might include:
- Friends, family, and neighbors
- Members of your community groups
- Former classmates, teachers, and professors
- Acquaintances and business contacts, including former managers, supervisors, and coworkers
- Referrals from other contacts
Nurture Your Network
Networking is about conversations and building relationships. You listen and learn about the other person. You think about mutual interests and the ways you can support them while they help you. As with any friendship, respect their limits on the amount and type of interaction.
Here are some ways to support contacts in your network.
- Take notes during your conversations. Follow up by e-mail, telephone, mail, or text message.
- Send them an article or blog post about something you know is important to them.
- Show concern about their family or personal life. Remember the names and interests of important people in their lives.
- Come up with a solution to a problem they discussed with you. For example, maybe someone you know used an effective service provider or vendor to solve a work issue.
- Stay in contact with people from your past.
- Include them in holiday greetings.
- Let them know you are searching for a job. Tell them what is working and in which specific areas you could use help.
- Update them on your family or on those things where you share a common interest.
- Let your contact know that you appreciate the time they spend with you as well as their knowledge and professional opinion.
- If someone has been especially helpful to you, offer to take them out for coffee or a meal on your dime.
- Once you land a job, thank everyone who was helpful to you. Update your contact information with them.
- Don't lose touch! Networking is not just about getting a job. It's about ongoing professional development and support.
Expand Your Network
Looking for other ways to get your foot in the doors of potential employers?
- Join a professional or business association. They are one of the best ways to learn about trends and hidden job markets. They can also help you develop important contacts in your job search and career fields. Professional association and business listings can be found online or at your local library.
- Join online networking websites, such as LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a popular networking site. It allows you to connect with potential jobs, colleagues, and business opportunities. Find out more about online networking.