Ever wondered about that hidden job market? All those dream positions that are never advertised or made public but instead announced by word-of-mouth. Welcome to the world of networking, the newest way to launch your career.
But it isn’t always as straightforward as that. As the internet continues to expand and shape our culture of communication, professionals need to be creative with their approach in order to successfully land a new job.
The bad news is, networking doesn’t always come naturally. The good news? You already have a broad list of contacts at your fingertips and you don’t even know it. Everyone you work with, your friends, family and neighbours, are a potential connection.
The people you know now could give you access to new job leads and industry figures in the future. Find out the five best tips to help your savvy networking skills get you the ultimate dream job.
Understand Where Your Weakness Is
Some professionals struggle to network more than others. It could be the challenge of leaving an existing social circle or that you simply don’t find the time. Whatever your roadblock is, there is no better time than now to overcome this. Understand what is holding you back and rectify the situation.
Perhaps your social skills also need to be improved. Professionals who speak too much of themselves and with a ‘job search’ mentality will find that regardless of their other attributes, their industry network will not expand quickly.
Networking your way into a new job requires precision and experience. Take the time, even a few minutes each day, to practice reaching out to strangers or old friends. This could be an email or phone call, but will get you in the habit of socialising beyond your daily circle.
Organise Your Social Network
Organise your social network in terms of who is the most important to your current search. For example, fellow students in adult education courses could be more valuable than your next door neighbour for industry relevance. On the other hand, you may be more familiar and able to glean more from someone within your community.
If you have access to a computer, start organising a database of your contacts. Include key information such as their full name, title, company and the best point of contact. This should be updated regularly to maintain your network. Try to write small notes next to each person, reminding you of a recent life event such as a career change or birthday.
Initiate the Conversation Yourself
Unfortunately, you will need to take the plunge and start networking yourself. Finding and securing a job offer through word-of-mouth means putting yourself out there to mingle with other industry professionals. Start by sending the first email, courteous and personal. It’s important to maintain a respectful distance in your early communication to avoid coming off as a ‘salesman.’
The best professionals never stop learning, and adult learning is especially important for networking. While your career grows you will need to understand more, hear different opinions and keep an open mind. This involves stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking the chance to meet someone new and experience their perspective. In doing so, you are able to take control of the situation.
Attend Functions That You Don’t Want To
Although most professional networking occurs online, there is nothing quite like a face-to-face meeting to create a lasting impression. Even when you can’t be bothered to attend that company party or annual conference event, it’s better to attend in the long run. Plus, that way you know you haven’t missed anything!
Attending a function puts your name and face out there amongst the industry, which is enough to influence the minds of hiring managers. For this reason, demonstrate an interest in the job search without pushing for an offer. Don’t wave your resume in the face of a fellow professional – play it calm, cool and collected. If they think you could be the right fit, they’ll make the effort to secure an interview.
Do Not Mention Your Job Search
This brings us to the final tip for networking your way into a new job – do not mention your specific ambition. It is crucial that your communication comes across as genuine, interested and respectful. Professionals are often limited on time and it’s unlikely they agreed to speak with you because they wanted to hear how desperately you need employment.
It can feel like one step forward, two steps back, but in the world of networking the key is to be subtle. After you’ve spoken to an individual, always remember to follow up. Let them know that you have learnt a lot in your conversations, appreciate the advice and hope that you might have the chance to work alongside each other in the future.
Helen Sabell works for the College for Adult Learning, she is passionate about adult learning. She has developed and authored many workplace leadership programs, both in Australia and overseas.