We know it sounds scary, but networking isn’t all that bad - it’s essentially just getting to know people and getting your talent out there. If an employer needs to hire someone for a new role, do you think they’re more likely to sift through a pile of CVs or take on someone recommended to them by a friend? Yep, you guessed it. So, if you want to know how to be that person, read on…
If an employer needs to hire someone for a new role, do you think they’re more likely to sift through a pile of CVs or take on someone recommended to them by a friend? Yep, you guessed it. So, if you want to know how to be that person, read on…
What it isn’t
Networking is not about asking for a job – generally speaking, unless you already know someone super well, that’s not going to go down so well. It’s more about knowing of that job (or opportunity) as soon as it comes available, knowing exactly what it entails and whether it’s right for you, and ideally the employer knowing you.
Also, if you’re imagining schmoozing on roof-top bars with expensive cocktails, handing out your embossed business card to passers-by with a cheesy wink, or donning your best cream slacks to play golf and smoke cigars, you might be in for a disappointment…
What it is
The shocking, hidden truth is that networking is about being sociable and having a chat. Er… that’s it really. It’s about showing interest, discussing ideas and gathering information. It’s not rocket science, you probably already do it, and you’re probably way better at it than you think.
Done well, networking can help you to make useful contacts and find out about job opportunities that may not be advertised. It isn’t just useful for finding work, though - some people use it to get advice, discover work experience and shadowing opportunities, or even just to meet people and find out what it’s like to work in a certain industry.
These days, social media makes it easier than ever to connect with people you don’t know. In addition, a large number of recruiters now have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. They use these to share information and communicate with potential employees, and some use it for headhunting. Many internships, volunteering opportunities and jobs are advertised via social media, particularly Twitter and LinkedIn, so if you’re not using these sites for careers purposes, you could miss opportunities.
Because Twitter is an open social network (you don’t need to be ‘approved’ to follow someone), you can use it to make contacts with professionals in your chosen industry, which may open the door to work experience and jobs. Don’t just tweet people asking for a job, though – instead, find opportunities to join in conversations and let the relationship develop naturally.
To get started:
- Find and follow professionals and organisations in your chosen career sector to see what sort of things they’re tweet about – it’s a great way to find out the latest hot topics
- Re-tweet interesting things and comment on the industry news, providing your opinion
- Gradually join in conversations with professionals and organizations you’re following, asking relevant questions, and add your thoughts. You could throw in a tweet along the lines of: ‘Interesting article on the outlook for the publishing sector, thanks! Do you think your org. will be needing more employees with social media skills?’ This kind of question will help you to steer the conversation towards job opportunities.
- Join a Twitter chat – Twitter chats are public discussions on Twitter around a specific hashtag, often led by an organization or brand, and they sometimes feature expert ‘guests’. They’re great for asking questions, finding out the latest news in your industry, and receiving advice directly from the professionals. Click here to see a full list of regular Twitter chats, and here for details on how to get involved.
If you’re 16 or older, set up a LinkedIn account – you won’t regret it. It’s kind of like Facebook, but for professionals. You’ll create a profile, which will have a lot of ‘CV’-type information on it about your experiences to date, and you’ll use it to make contact with people working in your chosen sector. You can even use it to apply for jobs directly if you’re 18 or over.
To set up your profile and start connecting with people, head over to our LinkedIn guide – it’ll tell exactly what to do.
- Make sure you link to your Twitter profile on LinkedIn, and visa versa
- Tweet/post regularly if possible – this will make it more likely that others (on both platforms) will follow you or add you to their network
- If you haven’t done so already, create a blog or vlog related to the sector you’re interested in. It should be about something you’re genuinely passionate in, so that you’re more likely to produce high-quality content. Once you’re writing/filming regularly, feed your content onto Twitter and LinkedIn.
Doing it old-school
Talking to people
Opportunities to broaden your network are everywhere – all it takes is to be willing to talk to people. If you’re interested in becoming a Journalist, for example, speak with your English teacher to see if they know anyone in the industry. Chances are, more than a few people they studied English with at uni went on to do just that. If you have a family friend who owns a business, reach out to them – perhaps they can answer your questions on what it’s like to run a successful company, or maybe they can even arrange a work shadowing opportunity for you.
Try not to focus solely on getting opportunities from the conversation, though – if you finish speaking with someone and you’ve managed to have an interesting talk about your chosen sector, shown genuine interest in it, and they know where you’re at and where you’re hoping to get to, it’s already been a successful networking session.
Clubs, societies and events
Take advantage of any careers events run at school, college or uni – whether that’s a job fair, guest speakers from the industry or a full networking event. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and introduce yourself if possible, and it doesn’t hurt to ask for someone’s email address so you can send over a copy of your CV later.
Joining a relevant club or society can also open up opportunities. Many organise trips, through which you’re bound to bump into potential contacts.
Using your network
There's little point in getting all these awesome contacts if you're not going to use them. You've got to put in the effort if you want to keep your network alive and well. Just like having a plant. Kinda.
- Make a list of people you know – what do they do and can they be of help to you?
- Keep contact details and business cards of people you meet at events
- Do your research – if you’re going to contact these people again, find out more about what they do, their company and sector
- Plan your first contact carefully – double check any messages or emails for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors before you hit ‘send’
Most importantly - be yourself! Act naturally, and don’t try to force an opportunity to happen if it doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere. If things do go your way, make sure you show your gratitude - a thank you note goes a long way!
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