It’s a corporate buzzword, but networking is still important in business, especially when you’re actively looking for a job. There’s a lot of competition for roles, and sometimes, an introduction from someone you’ve got a professional relationship with can come in handy. But how do you go about building up that network? It can feel daunting at first, especially if you’re out of practice, but a solid professional network is a great asset to have, and you never know when you’ll need to call on your network. This article goes through some tips and tricks to building an effective network, whether you’re actively job-hunting, or just trying to broaden your professional circles.
1. Start with the basics
LinkedIn is the best-known way to network online, so it’s a great place to start. If you haven’t already got one, create a profile for yourself, and ensure you fill in as many sections as possible. Include your education, past experience, any volunteer work, specific licenses and qualifications that are relevant to your field, and any other skills and transferable skills you’d like to showcase. This will allow recruiters and HR managers to properly assess whether you’d be a good candidate for a job and helps general connections to get to know you better.
Don’t forget to write a compelling ‘About’ section and ‘headline’. These will be the first sections that people visiting your profile will see, so make sure they show you at your best. Your ‘Recommendations’ section is also worth paying attention to. On LinkedIn, recommendations immediately link back to the profile of the person providing it, so potential employers can independently verify the endorsement. Consider asking a few people who know you well in a professional setting to provide recommendations for you – this is another way in which LinkedIn can help you stand out from the competition. Once you’ve got your profile set up, add personal and professional connections, and if you’re job-hunting, adjust your profile settings so that recruiters can see you’re available.
Remember that LinkedIn is above all a social media network, so don’t just sit silently on the sidelines. Jump in and engage with people, reply to comments, share interesting industry articles, and start conversations. If you’re looking for a job at a specific company, use LinkedIn wisely and filter for people who work at that company already. Connect with them, ask a couple of questions, and find out more about your dream company. Keep the conversation going after you’ve landed a job, too – you might be able to help that person out in the future.
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2. Think outside the box
When it comes to building your network – both on LinkedIn and in real life – it pays to think outside the box. If you’re looking for a job, cast your net wide and get the word out that you’re looking. Your ex-colleagues might not know of a current opening, but their spouses might. Ensure you’re connected with as many people as possible on LinkedIn – as long as you know them, of course.
Your alumni network is a good place to begin looking for connections. Reach out to people you studied with, and ask them to help you with building your network. If you’re an expat, this can be especially helpful – after university, many people move abroad, so you might not know you have connections in your city. Your former student friends are also likely to work in a wide range of fields, broadening your network and upping the chances of making helpful connections that could land you a job.
Social media also holds potential for those looking for a job. Joining Facebook groups aimed at expats, for example, allows you to connect with professionals in your field of expertise, as well and gaining valuable, local job-searching advice. If it’s appropriate and the right fit, ask your connections to recommend you for a job opening at their company. Referrals from people known to potential employers help to instill confidence that you’ll be a good candidate and can help you get an extra boost in a saturated marketplace.
3. Forge real relationships
Adding someone as a connection is easy enough, but it’s what you do afterwards that counts. Once you’ve connected with a former colleague or friend, find ways to deepen your professional relationship. Reach out and ask to go for coffee, or have a quick phone chat to catch up and explain what you’re looking for. Make sure it’s not a one-sided relationship, too. Think about what you could offer your connection in return, like recommending them for something or sharing useful resources.
Make networking work for you
The thought of ‘networking’ can be stressful for some people, especially if they’re naturally introverted. There’s the assumption that to network, you have to be the loudest in the room, walking up to total strangers and introducing yourself at events. But the good news is that you can make networking work whatever your personality, by connecting in ways that feel authentic to you. If you prefer connecting offline rather than through online platforms, search for networking events in your local area, and arrive armed with business cards. Meeting face-to-face helps you forge connections in an authentic way, so for something in between, consider 30-minute daytime coffees. And if you prefer connecting from the comfort of your home, take advantage of the wealth of resources and online platforms available.