We can already feel you cringing. It’s okay, networking is something that’s not always easy or comfortable for most people. Whether you’re a new grad, an MBA (Master of Business Administration) student, or established in your career, the thought of engaging with someone to benefit your career can feel inauthentic. While that’s a natural reaction, it’s also important to understand that networking is an essential component of your job search.
How essential? Well, think about this: 70% of jobs are filled through networks. That means that the majority of positions that are open and available are not being filled by someone sending a resume. It’s done through the relationships formed by networking. That should be a huge motivator for you to overcome your fears and start building your network. Here are some tips on how to network like a pro.
While you may think professional networking isn’t genuine, that’s not necessarily the case. Networking is all about creating real connections that add value to both you and the people you’re networking with.
At its core, networking is connecting with someone who you can turn to for advice or who can help provide access and information to elevate your knowledge and advance your career. It’s also a partnership. When you’re networking, it’s also an opportunity to bring value to the people you’re connecting with.
Although networking can be challenging, we’re going to show you three ways you can start networking without making it feel like a chore.
Let’s flip your mindset right now. Instead of approaching networking like another thing on your to-do list for getting a job, think of it as a way for you to learn. You understand the value of education. When you network, all you’re doing is gaining more insight and information that is relevant to your career. You’re learning, growing, and preparing yourself for opportunities that your network will hopefully provide.
Like we mentioned before, there’s a value exchange that happens when you’re networking. You’re not just entering the relationship to take what the individual has to offer. You have skills and talents too, and those skills are valuable. When considering who to network with, think about what you bring to the table and how you can be a useful resource to your network.
It’s a lot easier and more comfortable to speak with someone you have something in common with. When networking professionally, you should keep that same mindset. Do research on the networkers you’re reaching out to. Find things that they’re interested in outside of the job. When you begin making that connection, ease into the conversation by referring to those personal elements that also reflect your passions or interests. This makes your connection far more authentic. If you meet someone for a coffee chat, have a list of questions ready to keep the conversation flowing. Contacting someone you don’t know can feel daunting, but it doesn't have to be. If you’re contacting a new connection through LinkedIn, be sure to customize your message so it’s compelling.
One thing to keep in mind is that anyone you connect with doesn’t really owe you anything. If they decide to invest their time into helping you, remember to be grateful. Make sure you’re letting them know you appreciate their investment. That can be done by verbalizing your gratitude or by showing your value and doing your very best when they put you in position to succeed.
There are many reasons why networking is vital to your career and even your personal development. Who you know goes a long way in determining what you know. And in any career, a learning mindset is key to ensuring you stay ahead.
Here are five more benefits of networking:
When you increase your network, you’re exposing yourself to new ideas. People you network with will have experiences you’ve never come across, and in speaking with this person, you’ll open yourself up to new ways of thinking.
What networking does is bring you closer to new opportunities. Once you’re able to show others your value, they’re more likely to start tapping their network and open doors you didn’t even know existed.
You’re at the very beginning of your career. You have years and years of work ahead of you and it’s important that you continue to grow throughout your career. Networking is one way to ensure that your growth never stops and that you’re always improving yourself professionally so you’re prepared for the next opportunity.
This is one of the jewels of networking. Not everyone you network with will be a mentor, but the ones who are will become an invaluable part of your personal and professional growth and advancement. Keep your eye open for those in your network with whom you have a particular connection. Then you can take the steps in asking them to be your mentor.
We mentioned earlier that when you’re networking, you shouldn’t just do it to land a job. If you network well, what you’re actually doing is forming real, lasting relationships. These relationships will serve you in your personal life just as they will your professional career. Keep your network close and you’ll see how fulfilling a relationship can really be.
As we’re writing this post, online networking is your main option. But that shouldn’t be looked at as a negative. Connecting online opens up the playing field. Remember, a big part of networking is learning and learning has no boundaries. Connecting with someone on the other side of the world who has similar interests and is in a similar industry can be just as beneficial as connecting with someone in Canada.
Some of these places may not sound very formal, but networking can be casual. It’s all about finding a way to connect as naturally and authentically as possible, keeping in mind that you’re trying to learn, grow, and find opportunities.
As you create your strategy around what is the best way to network, remember these key points:
At Prepped, we understand the value of networking. It’s a crucial part of finding a job and advancing in your career. With the tools and resources that Prepped provides, we’ll help build your confidence so you’re comfortable with building your network. Sign up now and start creating your plan for success.