Often the word alone can cause job seekers to shudder. It can conjure up images of stressful, busy events, with attendees vying for attention and eagerly handing out business cards.
At a basic level, networking is simply about connecting and having conversations with others. You can do it on your own terms, and best of all, you might not even need to leave the comfort of your own home. You may, however, need to leave your comfort zone.
Here are seven steps you can start taking today to help expand your network:
1. Create a networking wish list
Decide what type of people you would like to connect with. You don’t need to know the name of the person yet (although great if you do) – instead, think about the ideal profile of those you’d like to connect with. Depending on your focus, it could be female founders in the tech industry, qualified accountants working for one of the big four in London, or lawyers who are qualified in your home country to name a few.
2. Identify people on LinkedIn
Using your wish list, seek out people who fit into this category on LinkedIn or using online searches. It helps to seek out people you have something in common with. It could be that you went to the same university, are part of the same LinkedIn interest group, already have mutual LinkedIn connections, or any other common ground you can find.
3. Personalise your connection request
It’s very easy to add people on LinkedIn without sending a message alongside your request, however it’s best to avoid this impersonal approach. When you connect, add a message that briefly introduces yourself and why you’re getting in touch.
4. Explain why you’d like to connect with them specifically
Explain how you came across their profile and highlight anything you have in common. Be specific about why you reached out to them in particular – did anything about their experience stand out to you? What excites you about their career story? Keep it real – you don’t need to suck up – but make sure the person knows you are interested in talking to them in particular.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for a chat
Everyone has different objectives for networking, but many job seekers will ideally want to have a conversation to gain more insights into the role the person works in. Make it easy for your new connection to say yes by asking them for a short call or virtual coffee to find out more about their career, and be specific about what you’d like to learn. For example, you might say you’d love to hear more about what their role entails, or you’re interested to hear how they found the transition from one company to another. Focus on curiosity and learning rather than job hunting.
6. Be prepared
Make sure you prepare for your networking meeting by researching the person’s background and preparing questions. Be curious and interested, and listen to the responses, rather than firing question after question at them! Make sure you ask questions that are related to the person’s experience, and don’t ask questions you can easily find out the answers to online.
7. Send a thank you message
Remember to follow up your chat by thanking the other person for their time, and sharing what in particular you found useful about it. Stay in touch with the person, for example by emailing them to share how you are implanting any advice they shared with you, or by interacting with their content on LinkedIn, and don’t forget to offer your help in return.
“What’s the point of doing this if I’m not directly asking them for a job?”
Networking can be a vital tool to help with your job search, however, it won’t lead to a job offer straight away. It can, however, help with many vital stages of your job search journey.
Networking can help you to:
- Develop your skillset
Confidence and communication are key skills that employers look for in their applicants. Networking allows you to practise your professional communication, meaning you will be even better equipped to deal with future conversations – whether this is at the interview stage or with further networking opportunities.
- Get honest insights
The best way to find out about the reality of a job, or what it’s like in a particular role or company, is to talk to someone that’s directly involved. The insights you gain from these conversations will allow you to tailor your CV and cover letter to the specific company you’re applying to even further.
- Build useful contacts
Building (and maintaining) good relationships with others can lead to all kinds of possibilities opening up. They might let you know when a job opens up, or they might put in a good word for you with a hiring manager or recruitment team. They may offer to give some feedback on your CV, or say they’re happy for you to include their name on your cover letter.
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