You’ve heard it over and over. A network is the key to getting job leads, referrals and an inside path to your next job. If job networking has been last on your list of priorities, it’s not too late. You can act quickly to build a powerful network of personal and professional contacts.
You might think job networking is an old-fashioned concept that doesn’t apply to our digital age. In reality, it's more important than ever.
According to a recent LinkedIn survey:
You’ve accepted you need a strong, supportive network. Now, it’s time to build one. Follow these steps.
Devote some time each month to attending conferences, workshops, and social get-togethers with people in your field. There are also formal networking events where the goal is to meet people who can become part of your professional circle.
To be successful at these events, commit to meeting three new people at each event. Bring a stack of your own professional-looking business cards. As soon as you get home, send your new contacts an email to tell them how much you enjoyed talking to them.
If it's a virtual event, you should follow the same goals, but use the event attendee list profiles to find people you'd like to connect with, message with them, and follow up on social media.
Service clubs and your local Chamber of Commerce often hold mixers, charity fundraisers, and business card exchanges. You can find these events online, at your library, or through the local chamber.
In some areas, you’ll have more success with church groups, local business roundtables, community service groups, and job clubs. Your state’s workforce development office may have a list of these groups. These are all worth exploring.
LinkedIn. This is still the single most powerful way to network online. LinkedIn is not like any other social media platform. It's a key business resource. You could miss important opportunities if you don't stay on top of your inbox.
Facebook. Facebook can help you find groups connected to your industry or profession. Join these groups and get active on them.
Volunteering is always worthwhile, and that’s especially true when you want to build a network. You can meet a wide range of people when you volunteer. You can also develop new job skills and take your mind off your job search worries.
Matt Youngquist, president of Career Horizons job coaching, advises that you build your network like a sales pipeline. If you’re looking for work, aim to make 100 new contacts a month. That number may not be realistic at first, but try to pursue all the contacts you can.
Once you have a network of solid contacts, keep it strong with regular care.
Tell everyone. Don’t be shy about your job hunt. Mention it to people in your social circles, your doctor’s office, your favorite coffee shop, the fellow passengers on your commuter train and your social media followers. You never know where a good job lead can come from.
Stay in touch. Once you’ve established a list of contacts, email them once a month. Use this opportunity to ask if there’s anything your contacts need from you. Don’t forget to send greetings for holidays and anniversaries.
Return the favor. Be sure your network can count on you. When you first start reaching out, don’t just ask for help. Present yourself as a source of help and advice.
Make it a habit. Hallely Azulay, CEO of TalentGrow, suggests making it a regular part of your routine. “Set up small, doable daily or weekly habits [like] checking up on your contacts, making introductions, liking or sharing or commenting on their updates and content shares, and even sending articles or a simple note of appreciation.”
Job networks are important for everyone, and it's never too late to start building one. Set aside some time every week to meet new people, improve your LinkedIn profile and send an email. These small efforts will add up to a large, growing network.