How To Start Networking for Success
You know you’re supposed to network while job searching, but how do you even get started? This article goes over what networking is (and is not), how it can help your job search, and how to start.
Reading Time 7 mins
This article on how to start networking is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School.
Do you cringe when you hear the word “networking”? If so, you’re not alone.
Job seekers often hear advice about how critical networking is. Many perceive it as “cold calling” others and begging for a job!
The good news is that is typically not what networking is all about. Let’s dig deeper into what networking is (and is not), how it can help you in your job search, and some of the many networking options available to you.
Networking = Building Relationships
Networking is all about building, cultivating, and maintaining relationships.
This includes relationships with people whom you already know as well as people you want to know. It is through these relationships that you share your unique knowledge, experience, and personality with others.
This will give you additional industry contacts and exposure, which in turn can help you grow professionally and enhance your overall job search strategy – both short and long-term.
Relationships are critical in a job search because people don’t hire resumes – they hire people. The individuals you network and build relationships with will remember you and “your story”, how you add value, and what you have to offer. There are numbers to back this up. According to HubSpot, 85% of jobs are filled through networking, and many of those jobs are never posted.
Most of you already know how to network.
Have you ever asked a friend, co-worker, or neighbor for recommendations on a good restaurant, reliable lawn service, childcare, etc? If so, that is a form of networking – as you connect with individuals, initiate a dialogue, discuss options, and share ideas and solutions.
If you can do that, then you can apply the same principles when networking in your career!
How To Get Started Networking
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, there are so many effective and creative ways to network. The possibilities are endless, but let’s narrow it down and focus on three effective methods.
Use LinkedIn To Network Digitally
LinkedIn is currently one of the most effective methods for building professional relationships. This underscores the importance of having a strong LinkedIn profile and personal brand!
Kick-start your job search by making a list of companies or industries in which you’re interested and then reach out to individuals there who work in your field or Human Resources. Once you’re connected, you can explain your passion for the industry and company, which will start you off with a common interest. Do some basic research on the company so you can articulate your passion for the company’s mission, products, and services.
The conversation should naturally evolve where you can share your interests, how you can add value, and where you are in your job search. They may even be able to refer you to others who may be interested in chatting with you.
On a similar note, if you see that you already have a mutual LinkedIn connection with individuals you are interested in connecting with, then you already have something in common – great! See if the mutual connection can introduce you, even if it’s just via email, and then you can take it from there.
Keep in mind that not everyone you reach out to will respond, and that’s ok! You can follow up with them again after a few weeks.
They may respond, but they may not.
People get sidetracked and forget to respond, are out of the office, etc, so while it’s easier said than done, don’t take it personally if you don’t get responses to all your reach-outs. Most people don’t.
It’s not about the number of connections, but the quality! For those who do respond to you, continue cultivating the relationship going forward with regular communication.
Join LinkedIn Groups
Another way of utilizing LinkedIn is to join one (or more) of their industry-specific groups. For example, there is a “Women in Tech” group and a “Cybersecurity 101” group. Some of the groups conduct web meetings and other virtual events.
Search LinkedIn’s group section and join the ones of interest to you.
Once you begin meeting people in the groups, you can connect with them on LinkedIn and start building relationships. Again, it’s all about gaining more exposure in your field.
Create your own content on LinkedIn
Finally, creating or sharing content on LinkedIn is one of the best ways to increase your exposure.
Take that first step and post some content and begin building your own personal brand. Let others get to know you and what you have to offer. As people begin commenting on your posts, you can engage with them and begin building more professional relationships.
This will help increase your confidence and motivate you to continue posting content, which will strengthen your overall personal brand and create more potential for additional relationships. It’s a domino effect!
Pull on Your Existing Network
You probably have a vast network of people with whom you can reconnect. Friends, neighbors, previous co-workers, classmates, alumni, and don’t forget about family members. Perhaps some of these current connections work in your field, or at the very least, work at a company that has potential opportunities in your field.
For example, if you have a family member(s) who you think can introduce you to individuals at their place of employment who work in your field, simply communicate that you would love for them to make an introduction between you and someone at their company.
If it’s someone you haven’t spoken to in several months or longer, then reach out to them and ask how they’re doing and how their career is going. You can fill them in on how you’ve been doing and casually mention your career interests, status, etc. and build from there.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of connecting with alumni. You already have a connection by having attended the same school. Many people have obtained valuable advice and mentoring, and even referrals and job offers – from prior classmates.
Attend Industry meetups or conferences
In-person or virtual meetups and conferences are another excellent way to meet others in your field. You already have something in common with a majority of the other attendees – an interest in the field and wanting to make new connections!
There often are project work and skill enhancement exercises that are introduced, so not only do you have the potential for making new connections but you also can upskill at the same time (and be sure to list any projects or upskilling on your resume AND LinkedIn profile!)
Meetups often tend to have a more casual atmosphere so if you’re sitting at a table with a group of other attendees, you can each introduce yourselves by using your elevator pitch. Find commonalities and watch the conversion grow. If there are speakers or presenters, introduce yourself to them and provide examples of how they helped you and what you learned. You can even send them a connection request on LinkedIn.
Start a meetup group
If you’re part of a LinkedIn group and they don’t have any virtual meetings scheduled, then you can take the initiative to offer one up. Get the other members engaged to help. The meetup can be as small or grand as you all want. The key is to get a group of like-minded people together and start building relationships.
Final Thoughts On How To Start Networking
Get your creative juices flowing when it comes to networking. We just scratched the surface with the above three methods; the opportunities are endless.
As outlined throughout this article, networking is not cold calling or asking for jobs, but more about building relationships – which can help you professionally in numerous ways, whether you’re currently in the job market or will be sometime throughout your career.
Of course, if you end up obtaining a job through a networking connection, be sure to thank that person and pay it forward by responding to networking requests that you may receive throughout your career.
You have what it takes to network – start today!
About Andrea Towe
Andrea Towe is a Career Coach with Flatiron School. She has 20+ years of experience in career coaching and corporate human resources, including employee relations, talent acquisition, career and leadership development, training development, and facilitation.
Posted by Andrea Towe / September 1, 2022
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