Build Your Network Before You Need It

Posted by Pat Tovo

pat name tagWhen someone mentions networking, it conjures images of stilted conversations at professional cocktail parties. Forced smiles. Swapping business cards.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with attending networking events. You should, in fact, because they can be really helpful in your job search. But realize that any gathering or human interaction where you’re talking about your job search is a networking opportunity.

No matter the venue, it’s important to make your networking efforts targeted and effective. Timing is also essential. There’s truth to the old saying that the best time to find a job is when you have one. If you wait until you’re out of work to begin building a network, it will take a lot of steam to build up vital contacts. And studies show that professionals who network throughout their career are more successful, so networking is not just for job search. It’s relevant throughout a successful career.

When given the option, hiring managers prefer to hire cleared job seekers that are referred by someone they know and trust. Jobvite did a study that found 1 in 7 employee referrals is hired; 1 in 100 general job seekers is hired. Those referred job seekers also tend to have information about the job opening or the company that other job seekers without a connection do not have. In other words they are often better-prepared job seekers. Those referrals will come from your network.

You need to build a network of professional contacts who highly regard your capabilities and who are comfortable recommending you. This is only achieved by staying in touch with connections from school, volunteer programs, past colleagues and those you’ve interacted with through community programs. It takes times to build an effective network, so get started today.

Start with everyone you know to build your connections. Keeping in touch should be a regular part of your professional routine. Let people know your current work status and what your goals are. You never know who is going to be able to assist you or who might have a contact that can assist you.

It’s All about Give and Take

Effective networking is a two-way street. You must be agreeable to helping others just as you hope they will help you. Always take calls from your network connections and always return their emails. Make it known that you are available for assistance. Make a genuine offer to help. Be sincere in your efforts and always follow up with thanks when someone has offered you guidance. When you can, pay it forward.

Stay in Touch with Connections

Keep track of what your connections are up to. Let them know if you hear of something they might be interested in. It doesn’t have to be a job, but maybe a community role that you think they would enjoy. Not only does this keep you in touch but it says, “I’m thinking about you.” When people see you in a positive light they will be more eager to assist you. Keep your network up-to-date about what you are doing (an expansion in job duties, a new professional association role, etc.) Be genuinely interested in what is happening with them. People will stop taking phone calls from those who are only in touch when they need something.

Like a Good Scout, Always Be Prepared

Everyone needs that important elevator pitch – a concise statement that outlines your capabilities, accomplishments and career goals. There will often come a time when someone asks you to summarize what you’re looking for. Your summary should be natural, polished and brief. It’s not the time to review your resume, but rather be confident and concise about your future goals.

Consistency is Important

If you talk with Contact A who is an engineer and tell him you are interested in his field and then talk with Contact B who is an analyst and say the same thing, please know that this can come back to haunt you. Exploring options is fine if you make it clear you are exploring. But when you’re building connections to help you attain career goals, those objectives need to be consistent. Likewise, the profile you project via social media needs to be consistent. If your resume doesn’t match your LinkedIn profile, your network – and recruiters – will notice.

Putting together an effective network takes time. It isn’t something that can be built in an instant for an emergency search to find a new cleared job. Networking is an essential, long-term professional necessity. If you are going to get a position through your connections, it will be because they know you are professional, they can confidently recommend your work and they admire you enough to put their reputation on the line. Invest the time now and your networking efforts will pay off when needed.

Pat Tovo guides job seekers in conducting successful employment searches through targeted prospecting, effective resume writing, and polished interviewing skills.  She enjoys facilitating workshops and working one-on-one in career counseling.



This entry was posted on Monday, January 04, 2016 7:15 am

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