You’ve been told to “network, network, network” when you’re trying to get a job on the civilian side. But what does that mean, and what does job networking do? The importance of career networking applies to people in all industries and at all stages of their careers, but it can be hard to figure out how this breaks into daily or weekly action steps.
Read on to learn more about how to network for a job and explore how you can not only benefit from but also contribute to networking over time. That’s because networking is a two-way street. It’s not just about you. It’s about building a relationship with people and becoming recognized as a good person to know.
Do you know what percentage of jobs are found through networking? Research shows it’s as high as 85%! But there are even more reasons to build a network. Check out more tips on job networking below.
Why Build a Network?
When it comes to finding your next great job or having someone who keeps you in mind for a potential future opportunity, it is very powerful to have a strong network. Unfortunately, far too many people wait until the moment when they need immediate help to start networking for a new job. That is not the right time to begin making connections. You should always be in the process of growing your network and making connections so that if the time comes for you to lean on someone or call in a favor, your name is already top of mind.
When you are in the crunch of trying to find a job opportunity immediately, it is harder for someone who has just met you to plug you in in a timely fashion. However, when someone knows about you and already thinks highly of you, it is much easier to get access to potential job opportunities as they come up. It is also easier to reach out to these people when you are in the position of seeking an immediate job. This is because you are able to have plenty of lead time and have the proactive benefit of them bringing job opportunities to you.
The main goal of building a network and growing your job networking tips is to get people to think of you first. You never know when the perfect opportunity for you will come across someone’s desk. When that happens, there’s no harm in you being known as “the” person for that role.
Knowing how to network for your career will help you build solid relationships both in your current role and also for future roles. You can benefit from finding and working with mentors at every stage of your career, so even if you’re happy in your current role, don’t let off on job networking.
Which Social Networking Platform Is Specifically for Career Networking?
Hands down, LinkedIn is your best resource for growing your network and for getting in touch with people for your career. If you use it the right way, LinkedIn can pay off in spades. But if you’re too pushy, you’ll blow your chance. Read on to find useful LinkedIn best practices.
How To Use Job Search Social Networking Sites the Right Way
Everyone knows about sites like LinkedIn or the app FishBowl. Learning how to network on LinkedIn to get a job can make a huge impact on your career and job networking prospects.
But knowing how to use these the right way is another matter entirely. These sites can be really powerful for your job search, but they’ll only be successful for you when you know how to use them properly for job networking.
When it comes to job networking, you may want to reach out for an actual call or a video chat. If this happens, be honest about what you’re hoping to get out of it. Here’s an example template:
“Hey Jake, long time no chat. I’m in the process of switching careers entirely and wanted to ask you a couple of questions about your industry and see what you think about my next step. Can I grab ten minutes of your time sometime soon?”
Don’t be vague or make your ask look like a sales pitch (trust me, lots of these people get pitched or asked for free coffee chats all the time). So be clear and be respectful of their time.
Share great content of your own if you want others to follow you. Show that you’re active in your industry and care about your role. Taking on extra roles at work, winning an award, or sharing your perspective on big changes in your industry can all help your name show up in your network’s feed to start new conversations.
Clean Your Profile First
Don’t just start connecting with people on LinkedIn. You might think this is the right approach, but you need to show the platform that you’re serious about your job hunt. Optimize your profile with a full review and edit, and get a second pair of eyes to give you some feedback, too. Here are a couple of things to look for as you go through the process:
- Create a great headline that captures what you do and who you do it for. For example, don’t list “aspiring creative director.” Instead, list “Creative Director for Advertising Firms.”
- Put up a professional photo that looks like you. No selfies or candid shots. The best picture for a LinkedIn photo has a white background because your photo icon will pop all across the site.
- Review your profile for all the main keywords you want to include in your area of expertise. Create a list of 10-15 keywords specific to your industry, and make sure these are woven throughout your entire profile, including in the about section and in individual job listings.
Find People Ahead of You and Connect with Them
A best practice for growing your LinkedIn job networking following is to connect with ten new people every week. The more you grow your network, comment on other people’s content, and create your own, the more this system feeds on itself. LinkedIn’s algorithm will increasingly get better at recommending things for you and showing you relevant content.
Always look for people who are one to three steps ahead of you in your career journey. You don’t need to ask anything of these people as you build your networking career bench of experts, but you want to build authentic relationships with them and learn from their experiences.
For example, imagine you’re targeting the role of Chief Marketing Officer. If you’re just starting out in the marketing field, talk to everyone you can who has a role in marketing at every level of the chain. Knowing someone who works as a CMO is great, but don’t forget about all the other people along that career pathway who can help you discover all the steps to take before reaching the top tier.
Everyone on the career pathway will also know about job openings in their own company and in other places. You never know when they can make an introduction for you, serve as a reference, or help share a resource like a training or special conference.
Here’s how to reach out to new connections to make a good impression:
- Don’t ask for something right away. This comes across like asking to move in together on your first date. Reach out by sharing why you want to connect, and say something like, “I know you’re a thought leader in the real estate industry. As an aspiring mortgage broker, I’d like to stay connected to follow you and your expertise.”
- Lean into your existing networks. It’s much easier to get coffee chats, LinkedIn connections, and other meetups in place when you have an alma mater in common or a genuine interest together (like supporting a specific charity.)
- Look for industry groups and meetups both online and in your local area. If you live in a suburb of a big city, it might even be worth driving in once a month for a tech meetup if you’re an entrepreneur, for example. Get a vibe of how many people attend and what kinds of people are present by looking at their social media channels and website in advance.
How To Stay in Touch With Job Networking Connections Authentically
A network is a group of people that know you and respect you. They don’t necessarily need to be in communication with you on a regular basis, but it’s important to continue to connect with them at least a few times a year to remain top of mind.
The good news? This doesn’t have to be a phone call or an in-person meeting. For your most valuable connections, however, it does help to extend yourself a little bit by offering them dinner from time to time. Here are some easy ways to stay in touch with people in your professional network:
- Subscribe to their email lists, if they have any.
- If local, join organizations (either career/business related or not) where you can build a real relationship.
- Comment on their thought leadership on sites like LinkedIn, or celebrate their accomplishments on social media
- Send quarterly emails checking in on them and sharing an article or podcast that made you think of them.
- Leave them a recommendation on LinkedIn if you’ve worked with them directly before.
- Watch video or webinar content they create.
- Share great content of your own, but only tag them in it when it’s relevant to them.
There’s never a bad time to start making connections! Now that you know how to network for your career, it’s time to get started with job networking!