Networking 101: How To Use Connections To Open Doors
You’ve started your job hunt, and people keep telling you to “network, network, network!”
The very word is enough to make people shudder with awkwardness at the mere thought of walking around a big event, trying their best to be extroverted and sell themselves to someone who might someday want to give them a job.
But networking has changed.
And no, we’re not just talking about connecting with people on LinkedIn!
Networking is the most important and most effective way of landing your dream job – especially in a competitive market where you may not have a lot of work experience (yet!).
Done right, networking can provide information, advice and opportunities, and open doors to roles you may never have considered, or known existed.
And the good news for the more introverted amongst us?
These days, you don’t even have to attend actual events to network.
So, how exactly does it work? How can you use networking to land your dream job?
Read on for essential networking tips and tricks:
Stop being scared of networking
We’re going to let you in on a secret: “networking” is nothing more than making connections with other humans. In fact, cut the phrase ‘networking’ out of your vocabulary completely. Let’s call it ‘connecting’. You are making a connection with another human being.
Some of those humans will be the people who make decisions about hiring.
Others will be people who know people who make decisions about hiring. And others will be people who have nothing at all to do with hiring but they know a lot about the industry you’re dreaming about working in – and that’s just as valuable.
So, if you want to get a few steps closer to your dream career, the first meaningful step is to let the right people know you’re there.
Aim for quality over quantity
It’s far more valuable to have a network with a few relevant, high quality contacts than lots of LinkedIn connections you wouldn’t recognise if you walked by them in person.
Focus on creating a network with high quality connections. Start by speaking to people who work in the same or similar industries you’re interested in. That way you can get insights on what the industry is like, its common terminology, and latest activities you may need to be across for job applications and interviews.
Share your goals
The more time you put into thinking about your goals, the clearer you’ll be. Focus on being able to explain who you are, your strengths, and the type of career opportunities you’re seeking, in just a few simple sentences.
If people understand what you’re good at and what you want to do, it’s easier for them to actively think about how they can help you. That way, you’ll be front of mind when they come across an opportunity that could be a good fit.
Ask for help
Now is not the time to be shy. Ask people for help. The reality is, people generally like helping other people. They also understand the power of networking and, if they’re smart, will want to expand their own networks too.
Know what you want
Be ready to answer the question, “how can I help you?”. Knowing what you want will ensure you get maximum value, while making sure the person you’re asking doesn’t think you’re vague or wasting their time.
Do you want 30 minutes over a coffee? Introductions to three people they think could help you? Or simply a few of the best articles or podcasts they’ve ever come across on a particular topic? Be specific and make it easy for them to help you.
Networking is a two-way street, so always consider what you can give in return. It can be tempting to focus solely on what people can offer you, especially when you’re starting your job search, but both sides should benefit from the relationship.
Think about what value you can offer to different people in your network. Maybe you’ve found a podcast that you think they’ll enjoy. Send it to them. Have you had a thought about a post they wrote? Share it with them. Or maybe you’ve met someone you think could bring value to them. Introduce them.
When people in your network reach out to you, be generous with your advice, expertise or own network.
Play the long game
The reality is, networking takes time, so don’t expect overnight job offers. Your aim is to build professional relationships that can help you throughout your whole career.
It takes more than a one-off meeting. To develop trusted relationships, you need to consistently invest time and effort. But when you do, you’ll be rewarded for many years to come.
Choose the right kind of event
Forget everything you think you know about networking events. With lots of different options these days, you are sure to find one to suit your personality type and strengths. Take an approach you’re comfortable with. Find large events stressful? Go to a panel Q&A session or try an online meetup. Love meeting people at big events? Start attending the top events for your industry.
Even if you’re firmly at the ‘introvert’ end of the spectrum, you can network your way: one person and one conversation at a time. Remember, it’s all about making a connection with another human.
The best way to make connections is simply to be curious about people. Ask questions and make them feel valued, heard, and interesting.
You’ll find that the best connections you make are when you show genuine interest in people, maybe in environments many others wouldn’t think of for traditional “networking”, like a cafe or gym.
Find out why they love what they do, their dreams and aspirations, what challenges they are facing. Genuinely listen to their story, and not only will you learn from them, you’ll make great friends. And that’s the true reward from building an incredible network.
Our final tip?
It’s the simplest networking hack of them all. You need to be ready to tell people who you are, what you do and what you want to do.
Because real networking is about putting your real self out there and being truly open to those who cross your path. So what are you waiting for? Start connecting!
Get more tips on how to use your network to grow your career with Hodie.