Recently, through the client work I have been doing, I have seen some excellent, and very fruitful, examples of effective networking. Working with people who readily embrace networking, and seeing the results that this pulls, has been wonderful to witness and adds to my bank of useful client anecdotes that I can draw on to help others. However, it will never be that easy. Some clients are, for whatever reason, just point blank reluctant to accept networking as an essential part of their jobs search. If that is you, please read on:
Networking is not begging, it is good business sense.
This is the number one cause of reluctance that I hear. Networking, it seems, is just not very ‘British’. And yet it really is, if you want success. It remains the number one way, by a long distance, of securing new work opportunities so unless you want to cut your nose off to spite your face please give it a go. The trick here is to disassociate networking from the negative connotations associated with begging or asking favours. Try and see it instead for what I truly believe it is - plain good business sense and a sign of an astute individual. The fact is that recruitment is a high-risk business. This is why so many companies actively encourage their staff to bring in their networks as potential employees - it takes a huge element of that risk away.
Networks can come from anywhere, so don’t rule anyone out.
Another thing I often hear: “but I don’t know anyone who would be able to help me.” How do you really know this? The very nature of networking is that it goes beyond just that first point of contact. Networking is not about asking one individual to help you. It is about tapping into their networks, and their networks beyond that, and their networks…. Leads can come from the most unlikely of places so don’t limit the possibilities by making initial assumptions. Spend time creating lists of everyone who may be able to help and contact them. Wrack your brain, think back to people you have met over the years in both a professional and personal context. Each one of these people is a possible lead.
Networking doesn’t start and end with creating a LinkedIn profile.
Don’t get me wrong. LinkedIn is a great starting point, particularly as we regularly hear that recruiters for certain positions will reject candidates outright purely on the basis that they don’t have a profile. But LinkedIn isn’t intended to be a passive tool. Don’t sit back and wait for connections to find you, go out and find them. And when you’ve found them, have a look through their connections to see if there is anyone of interest who you think could help you take your next steps. Do you have a list of target organisations? If so, use LinkedIn to search their staff and find individuals who you may have people or circumstance in common with. Alternatively, join some of LinkedIn’s professional Groups and meet people that way. The world is your oyster with LinkedIn, but only if you use it proactively. LinkedIn aside, find out about networking events going on in your industry and put yourself out there.
Networking is not just for experienced professionals.
It is a myth that networking is only for established professionals on the up. Quite simply, you are never too young or too old to start. Undergraduates - it’s a crowded market for you out there and you need to be thinking about doing everything you can to stand out from your competitors. Get yourself on LinkedIn, put a link to your profile on your CV and reach out to employers that way. Be aware of what your university careers service is offering and attend any employer networking events, or see what your university alumni network can do for you (this is an often-underutilised tool which can reap brilliant rewards). Alternatively, if you’re in the latter stages of your career but have never needed to network aggressively before, then this isn’t to say that this shouldn’t change. Whilst networking has existed since the dark ages, the ways of doing it have been revolutionised by the internet, and you need to keep up or risk finding it extremely difficult to make headway in a competitive job market.
So ask yourself “Am I making 100% use of the networks I have to find a new job?” If not, what can - and should - you be doing differently? The great thing about networking is that, as long as you approach it with a realistic mind set and understand that nothing comes with guarantees, you really don’t have anything to lose from giving it a shot.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire but works with clients, via skype, throughout the UK and beyond. Initial careers consultations cost £60.