We had a couple of events last week where networking was emphasised as a way to help discover the hidden job market and to connect with people who work for a company or industry that you are interested in. We try to have as many opportunities as possible for students to network by putting on careers expos, employer presentations and seminars plus we also run a networking workshop but what about finding your own contacts?
One of the simplest ways to start networking is to speak to the people you already know. Don’t just think of the obvious people in your life, think broadly e.g. family, friends of family, friends, friends of friends, neighbours, university lecturers and tutors, high school teachers and principals, colleagues from part-time jobs and volunteer jobs, sporting club contacts and community group contacts. Once you’ve spoken to them ask if there is anyone that they know who you could speak to, and so it goes from there. You might need to speak to several different people before you start making connections with people in the industry you are thinking of working in so be prepared for this. It does take work!
Experts from the Guardian website back me up on this by saying:
Start networking close to home: When trying to find how to get into the right circles, we’d always suggest starting closer to home. Talk to your family and friends. Find out who they know who is in the industry, and ask if they can introduce you to them. Try to build a relationship with them and once they feel confident enough in their relationship with you, they’ll be happy to introduce you to the right people in the right circles.
Networking is also about getting the most out of your existing contacts: I always believe networking is not about only meeting new people, but making the most of your existing relationships. Ask them the question “Who do you know who…?” and start to leverage their networks so you move out exponentially.
If you are having trouble connecting with anyone who is in the industry you are interested in then you can turn to sites like LinkedIn and check to see if a professional organisation exists.
Put yourself where other people of influence in your industry meet: You should always start by networking with your existing contacts. If there are too few, then you need to put yourself where other people who influence your industry meet. Start by looking at groups on LinkedIn as well as sites like Meetup. And ask people who you do know in the industry where they network, online or off, and if they can invite you.
Once you start to meet people the next step is the informational interview i.e. what exactly are you supposed to say to your new contact? For advice on that that you can read my colleague’s blog post.