Get connected to get ahead.
With surveys showing that up to 85 per cent of jobs are now gained through networking, job seekers in today's competitive job market can increase their chances of landing their next role by growing and leveraging their social and professional networks. This is everything you need to know about networking to take your career to the next level.
Why is networking so important?
As the old saying goes, 'It's not what you know, it's who you know.' If you're known, liked and trusted, it's easy for someone to remember you and flag up opportunities that might be a good fit. And if you find a role you'd like to pursue, a recommendation from someone in your network can go a long way to getting your foot in the door.
Where should you network?
Whether you prefer to connect online or in person, there are plenty of ways to expand your network.
There are so many social media sites to choose from these days. In terms of networking, the one where you spend the most time is likely to be the most fruitful in terms of networking.
In addition to constantly adding new connections as you meet them, make sure you post regularly and interact with other users' posts in order to keep your name at the top of their minds. You can follow companies as well as individuals to ensure that you hear of any new vacancies, company news and industry updates.
LinkedIn should be your first port of call when you think of networking. Start by updating your profile ‒ optimise your header and make sure you have sufficient detail within your profile to give recruiters a comprehensive overview of your skills, experience and value. Also, check your privacy settings to ensure your profile is visible to the right people.
Then start posting, connecting and interacting. If you're feeling particularly brave, you could even send personalised connection requests to professionals already working at your target companies, or in your target roles, to ask for career advice and make new connections.
Don't overlook Twitter when you're networking online ‒ it can be a great place to stay informed. Just like LinkedIn, once you clean up your profile to make sure you're presenting a professional image, you can start following companies you're interested in. You may hear about new vacancies this way. Just as importantly, you'll have their latest news and updates so that, come interview time, you can show you've done your research.
You can also follow job boards and other professionals. Don't forget to post some tweets yourself to get your name out there and demonstrate your insight and professional interests.
From small, local events to large industry conferences and even online gatherings, networking events are the traditional (and traditionally feared) way of expanding your network. However, signing up for every event and throwing around business cards isn't the most effective way to go about it.
Select your events carefully to ensure they align with your requirements. You can engage online with delegates and event hashtags before the event to start getting involved. For the day of, be sure to prepare a strong elevator pitch. Go with the aim of building relationships, rather than immediately securing a new job.
Grow your existing network ‒ whilst also giving back to the community and plugging career gaps ‒ through volunteering. You'll have the chance to make strong connections with other volunteers and connect with the organisation's executives ‒ it may even lead to paid work further down the line.
Who should you network with?
You know where to look for connections, but who should you network with in the first place? Different types of people can offer you different kinds of support in your career, so it's wise to keep your network vast.
When you first think of networking, you think of networking with other people in your industry ‒ and rightly so. These are the like-minded workers who work in your field who could eventually connect you with the relevant professionals who can help you make waves in your career. Not to mention, they can teach you as well.
You are most likely to find these people at industry-specific conferences or online groups dedicated to your field.
Your colleagues are right there with you all day, every day. They may not seem the obvious choice to tap up for a new job, but seeking mentoring and showing your willingness to develop your career shows that you're committed to professional progression and growth. If new opportunities arise within the company you'll, be streaks ahead – and if they don't, you'll be the person your co-workers recommend to their own connections.
Family and friends
Your family and friends will naturally want to help you in any way they can, but if they don't know you're open to new opportunities, it may not occur to them to mention any vacancies they hear of. One of the simplest ways to leverage your network to find a new job is to tell friends and family that you're looking!
Different networking styles
There's no definitive right way to network ‒ you just need to find the methods that work for you. Where introverts may prefer online networking, extroverts may have more success at events. Different techniques work for different people, so do what you feel comfortable with and works best for you. Your confidence will be your greatest asset, so put yourself in a position to succeed.
Good networking tips and tricks
Don't ask directly for a job, but rather let connections know that you're open to new opportunities in particular industries or roles.
Give more than you take. Networking doesn't work if only one person gets value from it, so look for ways to help others too.
Networking is for the long term. Aim to network regularly for maximum benefit.
Develop a personal brand and consistent message to ensure you're memorable.
Follow up with new connections in whichever way you feel comfortable.
Network to get ahead
Whether you're looking for a new role or simply trying to set yourself up for career success, it's worth stepping out of your comfort zone. Expanding and accessing your network is one of the most efficient ways you can get ahead at any stage of your career. Now that you know how to do it, just take a deep breath and start connecting!
Networking can help you land a job, but you'll still need a standout CV. See how yours stacks up with a free CV review.