Now that the economy is back on track, more people are out in the job market seeking new opportunities, meaning that competition is fierce! How can you stand out?
Networking is still one of the best ways to advance your career. Establishing yourself among the movers and shakers in your field will open the door to opportunities that aren’t advertised to the general public. It is important to remember, however, that networking is about building real and lasting business relationships with people who can help you – and people who you can help. It can take months, or even years, to build a solid network, but with the right approach to relationship building, you can foster a strong professional network.
Take Advantage of Online Networking
The Internet has taken a lot of stress out of networking. LinkedIn, a networking-specific website, is a vibrant, active platform where you can reconnect with past colleagues and make new connections. If you have a profile but don’t use it, carve out a few minutes each day to review your profile, add new connections and interact with your existing network.
LinkedIn Groups are a great way to grow your network organically. Join active groups that pertain to your specific professional niche that open new discussions on a regular basis. Contribute to those conversations in a thoughtful manner that showcases your expertise. This will help you connect to pros in your field, and will catch the attention of recruiters and hiring managers who join groups to spot new talent. An added bonus of joining groups is the ability to send InMail to other members, even if you are not first-degree connections. InMail messages are sent directly to another LinkedIn member you’re not connected to. If you have a Basic (free) account, you must upgrade to a Premium account to use InMail. You receive a specific number of InMail credits based on your subscription type.
Remember that online networking works the same way as in-person networking – which means you have to give a little to get a little. If someone in your network asks for an introduction, follow through so that when you ask the same thing in return, you are more likely to get a positive response.
Put Yourself Out There
Online networking is important, but it should not completely replace in-person networking. If you want to build real relationships with people in your field, you’ve got to make yourself seen and known. All cities and towns offer networking events, and all have professional groups that cater to specific industries.
Before you make a commitment to join a group, visit some of their events as a guest. Try out several organizations until you find one or two that are a good fit. Networking can be intimidating, so bring a friend or colleague along if you feel nervous. Force yourself out of your comfort zone and set a goal of making three connections at each event you attend.
Putting in the Legwork
Networking is about ongoing communication. You can’t just pass out your business card or accept LinkedIn connections and then move on. After an in-person event, email every connection you made, letting them know you enjoyed meeting them and suggest getting together for coffee or lunch. Building relationships takes time – and it takes effort. Remember, people cannot recommend you for positions if they don’t really know you, so you must be willing to put in the effort to build true relationships.
Again, don’t forget that you have to give to get. You may feel like you’re always chasing down your network, but eventually, as relationships progress, things will flow a bit more naturally. Don’t expect people to help you right off the bat. You may have to provide a few introductions or recommendations first, in order to build trust and earn reciprocity from a connection.
If you are a professional in the Philadelphia area looking for new opportunities to grow your career, the recruiters at Contemporary Staffing Solutions would love to talk to you. We work with some of the most innovative companies in Philly, New Jersey and Delaware that are looking for top talent. Contact us today to learn more about our commitment to your success.