Some of the most confusing advice offered to job seekers surrounds networking, the process of building relationships with other professionals in your field. In addition to maintaining connections with professionals you already know, you’re advised to make and strengthen new contacts.
Easier said than done. However, a professional network is a valuable resource when you’re searching for a job or changing careers. Knowing someone in a company where you would like to work, or knowing someone who knows someone in a target company, can give you an edge.
Effective Techniques for Professional Networking
Ideally, you should build your network long before you need it. The following tips can help you grow your professional connections and unlock the power of networking.
1. Make friends, not “contacts.”
You probably would be annoyed if someone you just met asked you for a favor. So, why would you put a professional contact in the same position, especially with something as important as your career on the line?
Real networking isn’t about leveraging other people’s expertise for your personal benefit. “Real networking is about expanding your friend group,” notes Nicolas Cole for Inc.
Instead of conducting the equivalent of speed dating interviews at networking events, focus on making quality contacts.
Introduce yourself wherever you go, talk to new people, and make friends. Keep in touch and strengthen your ties over time.
After all, friendships are stronger than acquaintances or contacts and friends do favors for friends.
2. Leverage online platforms.
LinkedIn and other online networks help professionals connect, interact and build relationships. Take advantage of these forums to develop a professional presence. Research companies in your industry and follow them.
“It can also be useful to try to connect to experts in your field. If the expert posts content regularly, you may learn valuable information that you can apply to your work,” Indeed says.
Reach out to those experts and see if they are willing to become a connection. If you are respectful and professional, many of them will agree, and – voila – you’ve expanded your network.
3. Attend a variety of events.
Most people are naturally reluctant to attend events where they don’t know anyone. When you’re job hunting, however, those are exactly the events you need to attend if you want to broaden and diversify your network.
Memorize a few conversation-starting comments or questions before the event. Your goal is to find common ground on a personal (not necessarily a professional) level. Bonding through your shared love of your pets, sushi, hiking, nail art – whatever – is a great start.
But don’t focus on yourself.
“Demonstrate a willingness to learn about the other person first,” says Kelly Vaught, a member of the Forbes Communications Council. If you can create a welcoming environment and establish a connection, the conversation will gradually lead them to ask about you.
4. Follow up with new contacts. Stay connected.
Friends and acquaintances aren’t people you meet once and never speak to again. Networking involves not only establishing but maintaining professional relationships.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. There are many ways to keep in touch.
For a start, add and follow your new contacts on LinkedIn and other social media.
“If your contacts mention a milestone in their lives, reach out to congratulate them,” the Princeton University Center for Career Development recommends. “Use transitions in the year… as excuses to reach out to contacts whom you haven’t heard from in a while, wish them well, and update them about yourself.”
A Step Toward Personal Growth
Networking is work that’s well worth the effort. By taking positive steps to build your circle of professional friends, you’re creating opportunities for career advancement and personal growth.
Expand your professional network even further by contacting STS Staffing. Their recruiters have a broad range of contacts in your field. They’ll be happy to introduce you!