Overview of Networking
There are a variety of ways in which networking can help with career planning, and aspiring professionals can make the most of them by following specific networking advice. There are also a few other career planning resources that it can be helpful to know about.
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 help you with career planning by providing 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. The following is some advice about networking that can help you maximize its effectiveness for career planning and for landing a job.
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Tips for Networking
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.
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 to further 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. This can help you plan for a career by opening your eyes to new company and job possibilities.
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. Establishing personal connections can improve your likelihood of getting a job and also allow you to engage in deeper discussion about career plans, like future advancement in the field. 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. That way you can learn as much about the industry as possible and have a vague career plan in mind when you apply for specific jobs. Also, 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 the least useful. This type of information is invaluable. It can save you a lot of 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.
Other Career Planning Resources
Outside of networking, there are other resources that aspiring professionals may want to take advantage of when planning their careers. Campus career centers are available for students in postsecondary institutions. Students can meet with career centers to discuss career options based on their education, interests, and goals. Many schools also provide extensive online resources, including opportunities to network with alumni. School and career counselors are available for high school students and they may also be hired by individuals who have left school. These counselors can talk to aspiring professionals and provide career aptitude tests to help with career planning. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website provides in-depth information about lots of careers, including job duties, outlook, salary information, educational requirements, and advancement opportunities, all of which can be helpful when planning a career. As you plan your career, it can be helpful to network, starting with friends and former co-workers and networking both online and in person. You can also get career planning information from counselors and online resources.