You Know You Should …But Do You Network Effectively?

Posted by Patra Frame

networkingYou’ve read the articles, we all have. Networking is vital to career success. It’s the way to the hidden job market. It’s one step from career nirvana.

So let’s just start over. Networking is nothing more than a relationship with another person. It can be in person, by phone, electronically – but it is vital to build a real relationship. Here are four steps you can take to network for your job search and for your career, that actually work.

Step 1. Start with your Personal Values

What is really important to you? Personal values are reasonably consistent across one’s life span although the most important few may change over time or with differing circumstances. Early in one’s career one is more likely to value a position that offers development, recognition, money. Over time these might change to advancement, challenge, economic security.

Take a moment to think about what you value. Need help? There are many lists of possible values online and ways to cut the list down to those which resonate with you. While you may decide on a top ten, it’s crucial to focus only on a critical few. This allows you to actually use your values as part of your job search and your networking efforts. Yes, really. So keep cutting your list till you get to those two-three most important now.

Once you have your top three, write out a short description of what you mean by each one. Then think about how each translates into your career goals and job search.

One of my core values is continuous learning. In a job search that would mean I wanted an employer who offers development options, with a culture that values knowledge and growth, plus a boss who recognizes my outside learning activities as valuable to the work unit. In targeting employers I would use this in:

  • Researching companies,
  • Talking to my network about employers and people they know who they see as valuing continuous learning, and
  • Incorporating it into my marketing materials.

I’d look for a great story I could share about continuous learning for my interviews, too.

Step 2. Marketing Your Values

Once you have defined your top two or three values in terms of your job search, you have to communicate them. How will you do that?

Start with the basic resume you’ve created. Where within it can you use your values and demonstrate how they make you a better candidate? Remember, these must be something that the employers which interest you want for the jobs you seek. Since I value continuous learning, I might show some specific skills or knowledge I have gained that way on my resume. It could be in a technical skills list, demonstrated in an achievement, or under the education section. Examples:

  • In Technical Skills list – CISSP, 2018
  • As an achievement bullet – Improved recruiting success for bioinformatics specialists by 35% using new social media techniques I had studied.
  • Under Education – MIT course on advanced data analytics, 2019

Add your values to your social media profiles. Here you can incorporate them into your LinkedIn summary, for example, showing each value and how that increases your value to a potential employer. Use your values in posting links and articles to such sites too. Recruiters and hiring managers look at what you post. Remember mine above? You will see on Twitter that I post both cyber security and AI article links, for example.

If you have a personal website or online portfolio, thread your values into it as well.

These actions help you attract the right potential employers and may help repel the wrong opportunities too.

Step 3. Using Your Values with Existing Connections

Now most of us are not going to suddenly start spouting values to everyone we know. But once you have defined yours and have them in your profiles, you want to talk to your current connections about them.

Study after study – about friends, about customers, about hiring – demonstrate that people do business with people they trust and like. Compatible values increase trust and likability. So let yours be known.

In conversations with your connections, you want to talk about one specific value, what it means to your job search, and what you need from them. That need may be:

  • Which employers might meet your values,
  • What they think about how you are expressing the value in your resume or social media profile,
  • Who they could refer you to, based on the value.

Step 4. Making New Connections

No matter what career stage you are in, making new connections is vital. You want to do this at work with people outside your work unit. You should be asking your current connections for referrals. You could connect with people in groups where you are active on social media. And those at professional events you attend. I am always saddened by older workers who tell me that they have no network, that everyone they knew has retired and so they are trying to job search with no help. And yes, they do have connections they have not thought of.

In growing your network, think of people in these categories who interest you and build a relationship:

  • People you have worked with in the past or work with now
  • Professionals in your field
  • New friends, social acquaintances, neighbors
  • Vendors, service providers you use or work with
  • Community-based groups’ members

In both Step 3 and 4, you need to plan your efforts to build or rebuild a relationship. Use these questions to help you prepare to contact individuals:

  1. What do you want to learn from each person?
  2. What will you share about yourself?
  3. What specific help or introduction do you seek?
  4. What could you offer in return?

“Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you are looking for an opportunity….you’re really looking for a person.”  – Ben Casnocha

Networking Basics Reminders

  • All networking is a two-way street, a give and take process.
  • Build relationships first.
  • Personalize each effort you make to connect with or build your relationships.
  • Connect your connections – this helps them and is a valuable form of giving something in return.
  • Maintain contact with your connections regularly – a quick note or call, a URL of interest. Too few of us do this and then feel we have no network when we really need one.

You can do all this. Will you? It’s your career, your choice.

Patra FramePatra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 8:56 pm

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