Overview of Networking
Networking has emerged as one of the primary ways to land a job. This process is a way for you to establish relationships with individuals who can introduce you to new opportunities that you can't find on a job board. Networking can provide you with a better understanding of various careers as well as information about numerous companies that you may not find by surfing the web. With this information, your career planning process can be based on direct information rather than rumors or biased company literature.
Look at Your Current Resources
You probably network without even noticing it. Often, the best networking connections begin as friendships. It's usually easier to help a friend whom you care about and trust than an acquaintance with whom you have no personal connection. So, when you want to begin networking, look around at the people you know already.
Chances are you know people who share similar interests or career goals because you've met them through classes or clubs. Attending club events or studying with friends can be the first and easiest step in establishing a connection. Try speaking with your current friends about your interests and career plans further to strengthen your bond. It also begins the process of swapping information.
Reconnect with Former Co-Workers
If you had a positive working relationship with colleagues you're no longer in touch with, you might consider tracking them down and re-establishing a connection. Former colleagues can get you in touch with companies they've worked for or individuals with whom they've formed relationships. They might also know of job opportunities with their current employer that you would be a good fit for.
Use Online Networking Sites
Online sites, like LinkedIn, are popular ways to reconnect with former colleagues and seek out new connections. Once you've set up your profile, you can import your contacts from your e-mail account or phone and send invites to those individuals to connect with you via the site. To start interacting with new people, join the many groups that are available on the site, particularly those that are in your industry or relate to your career goals.
Network in Person
While online sites are great places to network, you also want to spend some time engaging in face-to-face interactions with potential new connections. Look for professional associations in your area that put together events designed to bring together people in your field. When you attend these events, be sure to bring your business card so that people have a way of contacting you later. This is also a good way to get business cards from your new connections in return.
Start Networking Early
It's preferable to begin networking before you begin job hunting. If you establish your contacts early, you can better prepare for job searching and interviewing. You could ask your contacts what their job hunting experience was like and what approaches worked best for them. You could also ask them which approaches were least useful. This type of information is invaluable. It can save you a lot time while avoiding a lot of frustration.
Remember to Reciprocate
A good network connection is usually a connection that allows both parties involved to benefit. Rachel Solar-Tuttle, author of Table Talk, suggests that whenever you ask for something or meet with someone who could be a helpful contact, you should be thinking about how you can help that person in return. This technique allows the connection to feel like a mutually beneficial relationship. It also makes exchanging advice and information a more comfortable situation for both involved.