In today’s job market, everyone knows that networking is crucial. Making professional connections can be the best way to find out about open positions. So, how do you get started?
Attend any job search/career workshops or seminars in your targeted field that you can find in your area. Many cities have been hosting more of these regularly, so definitely utilize the chance to gain more knowledge of your field and job searching. Try to talk to as many people as you can, both personnel hosting the event as well as fellow attendees.
Connect with your classmates or alumni – many will probably be in the same situation as you are. Not only can this act as a ‘support group’ for you, but you can discuss different job searching strategies. Talk about what they are doing in their job search, and try to brainstorm together what works and what doesn’t.
Be open to making a professional connection wherever you go – the grocery store, coffeehouse, laundromat, gym, daycare facility, etc. You never know who you could strike up a conversation with that could potentially lead to you finding out about an open position. Being open to making a connection means being approachable; don’t be completely absorbed in your phone or a book. Simply smiling when making eye contact will express that you are open to conversation, while keeping to yourself or having tunnel-vision on accomplishing your errands or tasks at the time will probably suggest that you don’t want to be bothered.
Networking seems less scary when you keep in mind that if the person rejects and ignores you, the likelihood of you ever meeting or seeing them again is pretty slim, so you don’t have anything to lose! Traveling is also an excellent opportunity to network as well, because those chances are even less. Think of the people you sit next to on a plane, bus, train, etc.
Don’t feel the need to become best friends with everyone you meet. After all, these are professional contacts. Exchange business cards if applicable (or just contact information), and send a quick email within a few days stating it was nice to meet them, thank them for their time, and mention something you talked about that you found interesting or useful in your search.
Use social media websites to re-connect with friends and family you may be out of touch with. Of course, you’ll want to do this tactfully…never send a first message asking about any open jobs the person knows about, if you haven’t spoken with them in 10 years. Get an update in his or her work situation and go from there. You can start by asking if they have any general advice for you, and then move on towards asking about any open jobs they might know of.
Don’t be totally focused on yourself. Try to make any professional relationships you start more of a mutually beneficial one. Ask if there is something you can help them out with - this can be anything. Maybe they are new to the area, and you can recommend the best Italian restaurant around, or you can mow their lawn when they are gone on vacation for a week. If they are in the same boat as you, and you can help them practice interviewing, look over their resume, and share anything that seems to be working in your job search. You never know until you ask! The more you offer to help someone, the more incentive they have to help you.
Networking is not easy. But, it has the greatest return and reward, and really does work. If you can take a risk, put yourself out there, and make a conscious effort to attend events, you are much more likely to be presented with opportunities as opposed to sitting at home. It’s all about interaction!
For more career advice, please contact the Career Services Department at 877-221-5800 ext. 15060 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.