You’ve probably heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That can be an intimidating thought if you’re finishing up a degree and looking at the job market for the first time, especially if you don’t already have industry contacts. In this blog post, our experts will share their advice on how to get started networking and how to make those efforts meaningful.
Kristi, Hiring Expert at BNY Mellon, shares that “Networking is almost always more effective than other job search strategies. Networking enables candidates to meet potential employers and make industry connections outside of their immediate contacts...Ultimately, networking helps to distinguish a candidate from his or her peers through those new connections.”Ref Link
Successful Networks are Mutually Beneficial
Avoid the networking pitfall of viewing potential contacts exclusively as job opportunities instead of people. Stephanie, Hiring Expert at AT&T Inc., explains that “As much as you want to gain new knowledge, successful networks are built on mutually beneficial relationships. Approach a networking conversation focused on knowledge sharing and building new long-term professional relationships, not outlining your need to find a new job. Identify what you can offer up that makes you stand out - your own expertise or maybe a connection to someone you know they would like to meet...Don’t insist on someone reviewing your resume or referring you to a job unless it comes up naturally in conversation.”Ref Link Stephanie continues, “If networking makes you uncomfortable because it is focused on getting a job, consider changing the focus to your personal development and learning something new. Talk to people about their skills, their experience, and build relationships.”Ref Link Networking is important whether you’re job hunting or happily hired. Building relationships that will help hone your skills or open up a contact to propel your career forward should always be a priority. Stephanie also shares from her own experience, “In truth, it is equally important to seek out networking while you are gainfully employed as while you're learning. In my role, I seek out people who know more than I do about things I'm interested in and in turn, I return the favor by helping people new to my areas of expertise. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by how many people are happy to share information about their work and companies with you.”Ref Link
Where to Start
If you’re in school or have recently graduated, consider using your educational community as your networking launch point. Amy, Hiring Expert at Textron Inc., says, “If you are enrolled in an institution, Career Services is a great place to look to because they will be able to assist you in making industry connections.”Ref Link There are many types of organized networking events. Kristi, Hiring Expert at BNY Mellon, explains, “You can network at career fairs, information sessions, on-campus events, and at events hosted by corporations.”Ref Link It’s best to seek out these connections in a social context where you will feel the most confident and comfortable. If that’s within your school community, consider the on-campus events. If you like to put yourself out there, head to a career fair! There’s no right or wrong place to network, only contexts that are a better fit. If you’re already out of school or if you’re looking for ways to expand your network outside of attending organized events, several of our experts suggest using LinkedIn as a networking platform. Ashlyn, Hiring Expert at Worthington Industries, says “Utilizing LinkedIn is a great way to connect with people who work within the career field that you're interested in. I always recommend doing research on various companies and then reaching out to employees at the companies you're most passionate about. I would explain what drew you to the company and the career field when making that initial connection.”Ref Link Tony, Hiring Expert at Hill-Rom, chimes in saying, “LinkedIn has made it very easy to connect with people who work in your field and also gives you the ability to join groups within your profession/industry. This is a great way to network with established professionals and also keep you in the know when it comes to information regarding your field.”Ref Link
A Great Network is Worth the Effort (and the Wait)
Like all great relationships, your network takes time and attention to build. Don’t get discouraged if it takes several events, informal meetings, or connection attempts on your part to find the people you’ll really be able to learn from and grow with. When you are sitting down to connect with someone, Brittany, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, advises “Taking a genuine curiosity in someone and listening more than talking in a networking conversation sounds simple and elementary, but these two things go a long way. If it's not a good match, that's okay -- keep meeting people and asking about their success stories to see if you are able to apply some of those same principles to your own experiences and career.”Ref Link