With the unemployment rate being so high in recent years, it is becoming more and more important to network in order to get a job. This is especially true for those of us in competitive career areas such as media, fashion, or even architecture. It can seem next to impossible to start a network from scratch when you're first starting out in your field and are either an intern or unemployed. To help get you started, here are 7 tips to network in your career.
1. You Know More People than You Think
Your network is already bigger than you think it is. It includes all of your family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and even casual acquaintances. Start writing down names, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the list grows! Social media has made it very easy to see where your friends, classmates, and past co-workers now work, which gives you an edge to see if they are in your field too and if there is anything they can do to help you find a job. Maybe your parents know of a friend who works in your industry that can help give you advice or a person to contact. There is little to no chance that absolutely no one in your network will know of someone who can help you.
2. Communication Skills Online & off
When it comes to communication, there is always room for improvement. Make sure when having a conversation with someone that you fully focus on the speaker rather than daydreaming. Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to you. Listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. Also, social networking is a huge part of communicating now-a-days. So make sure your Facebook and Twitter pages are clean enough for employers to see. If not, clean it up or change your name to make it harder for them to find you. Also, make sure to have a Linkedin page set up with all of your accomplishments and goals up to date. Linkedin is becoming a great employer resource for finding out information on people they want to hire.
3. Get People to Remember You, Not Your Resume
When you are lucky enough to be talking to someone who can help you in your career path, try to talk to them about something other then work. Try to find some sort of common ground or something you both share in common. It could be something as simple as both owning dogs or liking a TV show that's on. Make sure that you do slip in your interest in the field they work in, that you are looking for a job, and even for some advice. But don't dominate the conversation with talking about wanting to work for or with them! No one wants to sit and listen about all your qualifications and awards. You want people to remember you as a person, not as a resume in human form.
4. After Work Happy Hour
If you are lucky enough to have grabbed an internship at a company that you'd like to stay at, consider after work happy hours or office parties as part of your job! The connections you make over a few drinks can sometimes be stronger then those you make on the job. If you are asked to come along, make every effort to join in even if you would rather go home and curl up on the couch. Even just spending a little time out with your coworkers will show them that you like and want to be a part of the team. Make sure not to drink too much though! It's tough to bounce back from a drunken night in front of your coworkers. If you don't already have a job or internship anywhere, see if your friend ever gets plus one for a company event and join her. You never know who you will talk to and impress!
5. Be Nice to Everyone
Make it a point to be helpful and valuable to your peers, especially the people under you. You never know if the intern who went on coffee runs could end up being your boss in 10 years. You never want to burn bridges when you're starting out! Plus, the nicer you are to coworkers, the more you get invited to happy hours and office gatherings where you can meet other people in the company who could eventually help you to move up.
6. Attend a Career Fair
Find a career fair in your area by asking your college or searching online. There are all different types of career fairs for all different fields that it's impossible to not find one. Make sure to dress as if you're going to an interview for the fair and bring copies of your resume in a folder. Also, before attending, find out what companies will be at the event and do some research. Find the ones you would most be interested in working for and remember key facts about the company so you can bring it up in conversation to impress them and show that you are interested. It is also great if you have some questions for the companies you like as that will make them more confident that you're interested in working for them.
7. Now Remember!
Now that you've networked a bit, make sure you remember everyone! Find a contact database application or software to use to keep all of your contacts organized. Make sure to put down everything you learned about them and even a picture if you can manage it. Remembering the details can be important later on like their kids’ or spouses names, favorite restaurant, or how you met them. Before calling or meeting with one of your contacts, make sure you know everything about them that you learned. It will help if things come up in conversation and it will show that you are interested and a great listener!
Networking is nothing more than getting to know people. Whether you realize it or not, you’re already networking every day and everywhere you go. The key is to turn these relationships you already have into a career opportunity by following my tips on how to network in your career. You can't sit around and expect to network, you have to go out there and meet people! Has networking helped you to find a job? What other tips can you offer?