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The AIU blog shares ideas, information and tips aimed at helping you get ahead personally and professionally, with topics ranging from online learning success to career development.

How to Make the Most of Your Personal and Professional Networks

AIU Career ServicesCareer networking is important in any career search, no matter what the job outlook or economy looks like. The people you know can open many doorways that you may never have known existed otherwise. Think of each person you know as a potential gateway to your next position. What does your network look like?

The key to utilizing a successful network is keeping track of it. If you do not have a system for managing your contacts, think about starting one. Make a log of the people you know, their contact information and the industries or fields in which they work or volunteer. If you are interested in specific companies, think of the people you know that already work there – are you in touch with them? You should be.

Your network should include anyone that could potentially help you in your search by introducing you to professionals in the area you’re interested in or by doing an internal job search at their company to see if there are positions for which they could refer you. This person could be an old co-worker or boss, a fellow alumnus, a member of professional associations/organizations you belong to, or people you meet at conferences and seminars. It can even include friends and family that work with your targeted companies or in your ideal fields, or those who share interests and career passions with you.

It is also important to keep getting your face and name out there by staying up to date in your field. Check out networking conferences offered by professional organizations in your area of interest. If you are not part of a professional organization, join one. These organizations could have priceless career tools and resources available to you, including new network contacts who are active in the field.

Once you have built your network and found a way to manage it and track it, you need to USE it! Keep in touch with these people – they could hold the key to your future. If you make plans for career-related chats, make sure you keep them. Send a monthly e-mail to your network to keep them updated on your search progress and let them know what you have been up to – you never know what might spark an idea as they hear about your activities.

An important thing to remember is that if your network does not know that you are looking for a new job, they will not know to keep you informed about opportunities that come across their paths that might be perfect for you. Keep them in the loop! Your next career move could very well rely on it.

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