Networking is one of the most effective activities if you are looking a new role and is a skill every job seeker should develop. Networking has a number of advantages. It can help you find out about jobs before they are widely advertised. Often jobs aren’t advertised at all and networking is an effective way of finding these ‘hidden’ opportunities.
It can certainly give you an edge in the recruitment process if you are approaching a company via a referral or personal introduction rather than ‘going in cold’.
Networking includes a multitude of activities; it could be attending meetings at a professional institute or a conference/seminar/exhibition. It could be reaching out and connecting with previous colleagues, customers, competitors and suppliers. LinkedIn is a brilliant way to research and connect with people who may be able to help you.
The chances are, you are probably networking a lot more than you think!
My five top networking tips are:
- Create a directory of your network. Think about the people you’ve worked with, old bosses, customers, suppliers, associates and other people that you know. Create a list and then rank contacts by how valuable you think they will be to you and how comfortable you feel approaching them. It’s a good idea to practice. This will help you get in the swing of networking and will build your confidence. Start with people you feel very comfortable getting in contact with but who may not beat the top of the ‘value to me’ list. This means if things don’t go according to plan you haven’t wasted a great networking contact.
- Plan ahead and work out what you want to achieve from networking conversations. Are you looking for more introductions? Can they advise you on your CV or introduce to someone who is hiring? Can they suggest any organisations that might be looking for new talent? Can they give you advice or information about a particular sector?
- Get your elevator pitch right. When you’re networking you’ll probably only get a short amount of time with someone. If you meet somebody at an event you may only have a few minutes. It’s really important you can describe yourself succinctly and confidently. This is your ‘elevator pitch’ and should only take 20-30 seconds. “I help companies grow sales and profits” sounds so much better than “I am a business development manager” and immediately conveys the value you can add to a business.
- Reciprocate. This is one of the golden rules of networking. Many people will be open to sharing their ideas and occasionally their contacts with you but you must be willing to offer your help and advice in return. If you aren’t willing to reciprocate you may find that people are less willing to help you.
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and complete. Connect with relevant people. Join relevant groups and contribute to discussions. It’s important to make sure that your LinkedIn profile matches your CV.
‘Networking for job seekers?’ was written by Mike Burgneay, MD Chiumento Consulting. If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future advice and musings on the world of work.