Why and how to network!
There’s an old saying when it comes to job hunting, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” And I can attest to this as I wouldn’t have gotten half the job’s I’ve had if it hadn’t been for people in my network. Nowadays, thanks to LinkedIn growing your network has never been easier; A couple of clicks and your network is bigger! Unfortunately, the fact still remains that face to face is the best way to network. So in an effort to highlight why and get you motivated to get out networking in person, I’ve created a brief guide.
Why should I network?
Simple. Do you want a job? Do you want to meet like-minded people? Do you want to build your personal brand and reputation? Networking helps with all of these things.
Though, I feel I should stress that when building your network you are not trying to use people! You should be networking to build professional relationships, learn and/or find a mentor. These connections may not produce a job opportunity until 5 years on, so employment today shouldn’t be your only goal. Remember, New Zealand is a small market and everyone knows everyone, so be careful how you treat people.
How do I network?
In our social media age, it’s easy to assume that making “connections” online is enough. Unfortunately, it’s not, it’s a start at best. The best way to network will always be getting in front of the person and showing them who you are and what you have to offer.
An important thing for everyone to note is that people love talking about themselves. Offer to buy them a coffee in exchange for 30 minutes of their time. The fact that you’ve put the effort in, to reach out is a huge ego boost for anyone you’ve asked! And who doesn’t like a little ego boost! Go prepared with a few questions about them and their job and have a conversation. Make the effort to get their business card.
If you hate coffee or are too shy to put yourself out there like this, then I suggest you go along to industry events. We, recruiters, have monthly meet-ups where we discuss things going on in our industry. Most industries have associations that will run similar things. You don’t have to talk at these events; in fact, you’ll probably spend most of your time being talked to.
So go and take advantage of the free drinks and nibbles then dip out. At the very least you’ll gain some knowledge and who knows maybe someone else will break the ice and chat to you first. If they do, get a business card.
What do I do after meeting someone?
I repeat get their business card before they go! If they don't have any business cards, make sure you've got their full name so you can connect with them on LinkedIn. Then follow up.
Following up is important if you want to be remembered. Send them an email within a day or two of meeting them. It’s nice to include something along the lines of how much you enjoyed your chat and ask to stay in touch.
Please note: Staying in touch doesn’t mean emailing them every day. Networking is a bit like dating, keep it casual at the beginning. You can become best mates later on but otherwise, keep it professional. People are busy so try to catch up for a coffee or at an event every couple of months. This will help keep your connection “warm” in the event they hear of an opportunity suited to you.
What I’ve gained from networking?
The reason I’m promoting networking here is that I have gained so much from it already.
Since I started networking in the HR and Recruitment industry just over a year ago, I’ve made some great friends, become a founding member of the Summer of Biz internship program and I’m currently in my second position within the industry, I'm still studying towards.
Networking doesn’t have to be hard, scary or time consuming just challenge yourself. Try to fit one networking event or a coffee chat each month as a start. At the very least you’ll meet some interesting people and learn more about your industry.
Hope this helps!