Networking is the most successful way to find a job. It’s estimated that 60% of all jobs are found by networking. Networking is simply building alliances. It’s easiest to build a network while you already have a job and when it’s done correctly, you may not even realize you’re doing it.
Start your professional network now and focus on building and maintaining relationships. Great opportunities will come your way and you will be able to help others advance in their careers.
Here are a few suggestions for starting or building a professional network:
Become More Social
The first step to networking is becoming more social. Start talking to people. If you are naturally a little reserved, practice by complimenting a stranger in an elevator or telling the barista at your coffee shop to “have a nice day”. Sometimes little comments like these are all it takes to start a conversation or begin to build a relationship.
Friends, family and neighbors should be your first networking contacts, but focus on quality more than quantity. Join professional associations where you are more likely to meet people in your industry and with your same skills and abilities.
Talk to parents at your child’s soccer game or start up a conversation with someone while you are waiting at the veterinarian. Volunteer your time to clean up a park, or for an organization that could use your skills. Build relationships with members of your social club or religious organization. A great contact could be anywhere, so get used to getting to know the people run into each day.
Networking relationships can not be built in a day. Realize that just like any relationship built on trust, your networking relationships will take time to develop. Take the time to contact them when you have other things to talk about besides jobs and business. Share in common interests or invite your contact to lunch. Focus on getting to know your contacts on a personal level as well as a business level.
Introduce two contacts who may be able to benefit from knowing each other. This is a big compliment to both people involved and they will be more likely to return the favor to you someday.
Don’t be afraid to ask people in your network for introductions and connections. If you have a good relationship with your contact, they will be happy to refer you to people they know as well.
E-mail is fine and will definitely help you build and maintain a job search network, but sometimes a phone call is a better choice. It’s better if you don’t have an agenda for your call, but instead are calling just to check in and see how your contact is doing. Also, if a contact in your network does something nice for you, whether it’s an introduction, a lunch, or tickets to a basketball game, it is important to recognize and thank the person in writing by sending a note.
There are many on-line resources for building your business network. Check out your professional association’s website, if they have one, for message boards and discussion groups. There are also on-line networking groups like LinkedIn that brings people together from all over the world.
Avoid Emergency Networking
Networking does not work when it’s done out of desperation. It is not cold calling or contacting everyone you know and asking them if they know of any job openings. Networking also works best when done in an informal way. This is why it’s best to build your network while you still have a job. If you have nothing to offer another person, you are not a network connection for them, and therefore they are not a network connection for you.