The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is a freelance professional personal finance blogger for hire, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.
Networking is one of the most time-honored ways to find a new job or to advance your career. Sometimes it doesn’t seem networking is actually working. But often the reason for that is that we don’t manage it the right way.
Here are strategies to help you get the most out of career networking.
You Should be Networking Even When You Don’t Need to Network
Networking is often an activity that we participate in only when we are actively seeking a new job. But approaching it in this very limited way is one of the primary reasons why networking might not seem to work.
The power of networking is in the network itself – you will have to keep it active at all times, even when you’re not looking for work. That is, you need to stay in touch with your network partners at all times.
This is a situation that can work against you if you have been working with the same employer for many years. For example, if you have been with the same company for 20 years, the stability of your employment might make networking seem to be unnecessary. But should your situation change, either due to a layoff, an unfortunate termination, or on the realization that you cannot/will not be promoted, you’ll wish that you had done a better job of maintaining your network.
Be Intentional in Your Networking Efforts
What does it mean to be active in your network? It means being intentional. You should have some sort of loose plan as to how you maintain at least semi-regular contact with your network partners.
That will involve periodic phone calls, emails, and even occasional face-to-face meetings. This will keep your network contacts active and solid. It will also remove any hesitation you might have about contacting people in your network when you finally do need a job.
Not All Networks are Formal
You can of course join formal networks, such as industry trade groups, but that’s not always entirely necessary. You can also maintain common interest contact with people in your field where you get together for purposes unrelated to work. It could be hobbies, sports, religious affiliation or any common bond you can think of.
A contact is a contact, so it doesn’t necessarily need to be part of a formal group. Any kind of group that involves regular contact works as a suitable network. Each member of the group is a potential resource for referrals for professional purposes if only on an as-needed basis.
Your Former Co-workers are Some of Your Best Contacts
It’s very easy to lose contact with former coworkers. And unfortunately, in some organizations, once a person leaves they are considered to be “outsiders” and all contact with them stops.
But former coworkers can be some of your best networking partners. Since they actually worked with you, they know more about you, and may not only be more likely to give you job leads, but also personal referrals. This is especially important since many employers require referrals who are people you have worked with in the past, but not necessarily your immediate supervisors and managers (because legally they can usually only confirm dates of employment). A former coworker who will speak well of you is a powerful personal referral.
Network in Parallel Fields and Industries
If all of the contacts in your network are in your immediate field or industry you may be leaving an entire very important group out of the equation. That’s people who work in related fields, but not specifically in your industry.
These contacts are important because they are often aware of job openings within your industry. Even more important, since they are not specifically employed in your industry, they’re not competitors for the same jobs. They would likely have no reservation about referring jobs to you, unlike people who are employed in your industry and may be reluctant to make a referral.
Make it Mutual – Always!
Successful networking must always be mutual. If you want to get job and career referrals, it’s absolutely essential that you reciprocate. Even if you are not interested in a new position right now, you probably know of job openings and promotions. If you do, this is an excellent opportunity to reward the people in your network with specific referrals from you.
Rest assured that if you refer a network contact to a new position, that person will reciprocate when the time comes that you need a new job.
This is another networking activity that you need to be very intentional about. For example, when an opening becomes available with your employer, or even with an outside employer that you know, send out an email to some of your network contacts who may be qualified or interested. Even if they aren’t, they’ll remember your referral. If nothing else, it’s another opportunity to contact some people in your network. And you should be doing that all the time.
If you’re working your network even when you don’t need a job, it will be there for you when you do.
How about you all? What other ways have you utilized to network with others? Have you found anything that works better than others?
Share your experiences by commenting below!
***Photo courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/83532250@N06/7650804342/sizes/n/