In uncertain times like these, it is wise to maximize the use of your social and professional network to aid in a job search. A recent survey conducted on LinkedIn reveals that more than 80% of people found their job using networking effectively.
Whether it is your father, who helps you set up a connection with a top-rated company in the city or your friend, who opens the door to land a high-profile job in his uncle’s company, the best jobs are seldom listed in the classifieds. Sometimes we have vast professional networks through social platforms like LinkedIn, yet other times we enlist the resources of specialized recruiters or career coaches to help us get a great job.
Whether you’re unemployed and seeking a job or looking to make a total career change, your social interactions can pay dividends in these endeavors.
The value of professional networking
Most people are aware of the importance of having a strong network in a job search, but very few people know how to do it well.
As per a recent survey, 50% of respondents agreed that they heard about new jobs via their connections, whereas only 37% learned about the new opportunities from advertisements.
The key is to develop multiple contacts – family, alumni, neighbors, friends, colleagues in your industry, and other sectors, and then build solid relationships with them.
Before the pandemic, attending in-person professional networking events was vital. The value of human interaction has not changed; only the modality we use to create it. Events are still taking place, but they’re online. If there’s an upside to staying home, it should be more convenient to attend as they’re happening wherever you and your computer are 😉. Try to participate in a variety of events whenever you have time.
Find groups and events
If you don’t belong to any groups or you don’t know where these events are, try an online search for organizations related to your industry. Also, you can browse apps like Meetup to broaden both your social and professional networks. A popular group among professionals in various industries and worth checking out is Toast Masters.
In the future, when social distancing regulations relax some, there will (hopefully) be live events that you can attend. If you happen to be the reserved type, a great way to break the ice is to volunteer to get involved. Why not offer to sit at the registration table? Then you get the opportunity to meet and greet all the participants and may find smart ways to start a healthy conversation and bump up your communication skills.
Have a networking plan
Get the best return for your investment of time in attending networking events. Have a specific goal in mind when you attend. Are you there just to gather information and learn? If so, write down a list of questions before hand so you can get them answered. If your goal is to talk to people in a chosen industry, decide on the number of people you are setting out to connect. Let’s say you decide on five. Set your intention to get the names and contact information for a minimum of five people; it’s always okay to get more. You could also set a goal to give your contact information to at least five different people too. It is amazing to learn that many other participants share common goals with you. Try engaging with them by sharing your business cards or email details.
Plan your “elevator speech” in advance so that you can make a great first impression and get your point across quickly. Time is money, and everyone is there for a reason. When it comes to anything business related, best practice is concise and to the point. In short, don’t attend an event aimlessly, have a strategy in place from the start.
Real professional networking happens after the event
Too often, job seekers do not “work” their network proactively. They get names and numbers, but they don’t follow up, or they don’t follow up enough. These relationships take time and consistency. It’s hard to reach out to someone you haven’t connected with for months or years. Commit to making monthly contact. Contact doesn’t have to be extensive; a short and sweet email or message on social media is enough. If you don’t know what to say, offer your help to them. No one gets offended by a no-strings-attached shout out. Reach out to all of your contacts about your job search. Of course, if you need to be discreet about it, choose wisely; the point is to be polite yet assertive. Your will impress your contacts with your energy, and you might be delighted to know how each one of them can give some valuable input.
Consider every social gathering an opportunity. There certainly are fewer face-to-face gatherings now, so take advantage of online meetings and get-togethers. Opportunities can exist anywhere; it’s you who needs to stay active enough to identify them.
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Professional networking will help your boat to sail in the right direction. Make sure you create an inventory of accomplishments and work history that you can share with relevant contacts when the opportunities present themselves.
Stay aware, stay active, and position yourself strategically to land that dream job.
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