The Importance of Career Networking

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The importance of career networking shouldn't be discounted when you are in the midst of a job search. In fact, career networking should become a part of your daily work and career-related endeavors.

Your career network should be in place for when you need it, both for job searching and for moving along the career ladder. Since you never know when you might need it, it makes sense to have an active career network, even if you don't need it today.

What is Career Networking?

Career networking, or "professional" networking, involves using personal, professional, academic or familial contacts to assist with a job search, achieve career goals, or learn more about your field, or another field you'd like to work in. 

Networking can be a good way to hear about job opportunities or get an "in" at the company you'd like to work in. 

Who You Can Network With

You might network with:

  • Past or present coworkers, colleagues, managers, supervisors or employees
  • Past or present clients and customers
  • Business associates
  • Alumni of your undergraduate or graduate alma mater
  • Acquaintances you know from your personal life
  • Acquaintances you know through your spouse or your family
  • People from your church, gym, yoga studio, or community organization
  • Past or present teachers or professors
  • Anyone you meet and have a productive, professional conversation about your career path!

    Top 7 Career Networking Tips

    1. Include the right people
    Your career network should include anyone who can assist you with a job search or career move. It can include past and present co-workers, bosses, friends with similar interests, colleagues from business associations, alumni from your university, or acquaintances you have met via online networking services.

    Your network can also include family, neighbors, and anyone who might have a connection that will help.

    2. Know what your career network can do for you
    Over 80% of job seekers say that their network has helped with their job search. Networking contacts can help with more than job leads. They can provide referrals to or insider information about companies you might be interested in working for. They can provide information on career fields you might want to explore or what the job market is like on the other side of the country. Your network can give you advice on where to look for jobs or review your resume. The possibilities are endless.

    3. Keep in touch - work your network
    Don't just contact those who can help when you have just been laid-off from your job or decide you want to look for a new position. Keep in touch with your network regularly - even if it's just a brief email to say hello and to ask how they are doing. People are more willing to help when they know who you are.

    4. Give to get - what can you do for your career network?
    Networking shouldn't be a one-way street.

    If you come across an interesting article or a relevant job listing, share it with your network. The point of having a career network is to have resources who can help, but you should reciprocate whenever you can.

    5. Keep track of your network
    Keep track of your personal career network somewhere. Whether it's electronically or on paper, make sure you know who is who, where they work, and how to get in touch.

    6. Network online
    Online job searching networking does work. Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and a variety of other online networking websites can help you get in touch with other networkers at specific companies, with college affiliations or in a certain geographic area. In addition, if you're a college graduate, your institute may have an alumni career network you can access.

    When networking with people you don't know, make sure that you know what you want. Are you looking for company information? Do you want to know about job opportunities? Be specific in what you ask for.

    7. Attend networking events
    Networking in person works, too. If you belong to a professional association, attend a meeting or a mixer. You'll find that many of the participants have the same goals you do and will be glad to exchange business cards. If your college alma mater holds alumni networking events (many schools hold them at locations across the country) be sure to attend. There are many different types of networking events you can attend.

    Career Networking Examples

    Here are some examples of how career networking can help:

    • Susan noticed a help-wanted ad for a job at a local veterinary clinic. She called a friend who happened to use that vet. Her friend called the vet and recommended Susan. Susan got an interview and got the job. The vet was glad to hire someone who came highly recommended by a good client.
       
    • John was interested in pursuing a career in medicine. He mentioned his interest to a family friend who happened to be a doctor. The doctor arranged for John to spend a day shadowing him at the hospital and provided an excellent recommendation for medical school.
       
    • Angela was interested in changing careers and moving from public relations to publishing. Even though she graduated more than a few years ago, she tapped her college career network and came up with a contact at a top New York publishing firm. In addition to being sent new job postings, her resume was hand-delivered to Human Resources when she found a position she wanted to apply for.
       
    • In casual conversation at the orthodontist's office, Jeannie, the assistant, just happened to mention to a patient's mom that she was interested in horses and in a part-time job working with them. The mom had horses and a bunch of contacts. Jeannie had a part-time job working on a local horse farm by the end of the week!.

    Why Career Networking Works

    As you can see, career networking really does work and it's importance to have a viable network in place throughout your career and to use your network to your advantage when job searching or exploring career options.

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