Building a Professional Network (What You Need To Know) 2018

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Building a Professional NetworkWhat is Networking?

Networking has become an essential part of increasing your opportunities of finding work.

In the past it was more possible to rely on employment agencies and job adverts to guarantee you a job.

Today, it is vital to establish contacts that could lead to possible job opportunities.

Networking exists to help you find the estimated 80% of available jobs that are not advertised.

It is the tools that are needed to tap into the “hidden job market”.

Your network does not guarantee you a position, but it increases your chances of finding out about a position before it is advertised.

Networking also increases your knowledge about an industry and specific companies.

This is very useful if you are trying to break into a new career area.

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The more informed you are, the better you can demonstrate value when you meet with your contacts in that industry.

Everyone that you meet can become a marketing agent for you.

If you “advertise” what you are looking for and what skills you can offer, they can recommend you, should an opportunity arise.

Speak about what you are looking for and ask for any leads in your immediate network – family, friends, ex-colleagues, acquaintances, teachers and lecturers, etc.

A good network does not have to be exclusively corporate, high-flying contacts.

Every person who has connections and relationships with others can form part of your network.

Although introducing yourself to strangers is not easy, you will develop your communication skills and confidence in the process! If nervous, role-play with friends and family.

TIP: Draw up a networking tree so that you can view your progress at a glance. List and link all the names together

How to Begin You Networking

Informational interviewing is setting up brief interviews with people who work in jobs that interest you.

The main aim is to find out more about what they do and to assess whether this is the best type of career for you.

This interviewing could be done by phone, but the benefits of meeting someone face-to-face are far greater.

This way you can make a better impression and see them in their working environment.

Use your network to identify these people.

It is a way of gaining a realistic insight into a type of job, and therefore making a far more informed decision regarding careers.

You also benefit by meeting the people who have the potential to hire you.

They are in the relevant areas of work, and will know about openings before the HR department.

At the same time as gathering information, you are also adding to your contacts.

The Process

Setting up informational interviews requires you to identify people in positions related to the job you want.

You can do this in two ways.

Firstly, asking people you know for contacts, and secondly, phoning companies (cold-calling) and asking who the relevant people are and what positions they hold.

Once you have the contact name, call them.

Carefully plan what you are going to say.

If you were given their name via a contact, this will immediately make it easier to connect with them.

If not, tell them briefly what you require, and stress that you only need information (not a job!) and it will take no more than 20 minutes.

Be very strict in timing.

Plan your questions to take 20 minutes.

Only stretch the time if they suggest that they have set aside more time.

A possible script for introducing yourself

An example of an initial telephonic introduction follows.

Before you call the actual person you wish to meet, make a phone call and ask the receptionist for the person’s name who is doing the job that interest you.

When you call again, you can ask directly for them.

If asked “whom may I say is calling?” (something that can intimidate), the best response is to give your name.

If prompted for “may I tell him/her what it is about”, respond confidently with what you are seeking.

But be persistent, and get through to the person you want!

Once you get through to the right person, here’s some suggested guidelines:

“Hello, my name is Peter Smith. I’m an engineer by training, but I’m interested in finding out more about a career in Financial Management within a banking environment. I’m in the process of networking and speaking to people who are familiar with this field and job. My purpose for contacting you is to gain more insight into ———- industry/field and to set up a time to meet. Could we set up 20 minutes for me to ask you some questions relating to the work you do?”

Suggested Questions

About the work role:

  • What does your average day/week consist of in terms of work?
  • What hours do you work – is there much over time?
  • Does your job allow for travel?
  • What are your main responsibilities, actual tasks and priorities?
  • What are the most and least satisfactory parts of your work?
  • Is it different to what you expected?

About career development:

  • How long do people stay in this organisation?
  • What prospects for growth exist in this career?
  • How is the work changing?
  • If you move on, what type of job is a typical choice of someone in this field of work?

Accessing this field:

  • What personality attributes are required for someone interested in such a career?
  • What skills are required?
  • What qualifications are required?
  • How did you get into this area of work?
  • Are there useful stepping stone jobs and voluntary experience I could do in the mean time?
  • Where are vacancies advertised?
  • Can you give me some insight into salaries on entry and progression in this field?
  • Can you suggest other people I can talk to?
  • What books, websites, trade/professional organisations should I contact?

TIP: Always send a Thank You Note. In this note reiterate what you have gained out of the meeting, and how grateful you are for the information and time offered to you!

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