Whether you’re looking for information, advice or a job, networking is a useful skill to have. It’s one of the most effective ways to find work. 70% of jobs are filled by people who heard about them through networking.
Networking is also a great way to find out about:
- jobs that have not been advertised
- occupations you might be interested in
- education and training programs you may want to take
- companies you may want to work for
What is networking?
Networking is the process of connecting with the people you know and asking them for advice, information and referrals to other people. It’s important to keep in mind that networking is not about asking someone for a job. You will lose the trust of the people in your network if you ask the people they refer you to for a job.
Networking is a two-way street—when you network effectively, you give as much information, advice and support as you receive.
You can network anywhere and any time—in person, on the phone or online. Networking works because people tend to be more willing to talk with someone they don’t know if someone they do know makes the referral.
Who is in your network?
Your network starts with all the people you know. When you ask them to help you directly or to refer you to someone else, your network becomes the people you know and the people they know.
When thinking about who is in your network, try not to overlook anyone or assume that certain people can’t or won’t help you. It’s nearly impossible to predict who might connect you to your next opportunity.
Your network begins with the people you feel comfortable contacting, including:
- family, friends and neighbours
- people you’ve worked or gone to school with, past and present
- people you know socially and through religious and community groups
At the next level your network includes people such as:
- contacts from alumni groups, unions or professional associations
- professionals you deal with, like dentists, doctors or lawyers
- former employers, teachers and instructors
How do you network?
Networking can be appropriate in both informal and formal settings.
You may want to start networking informally by talking with the people you’re familiar with—for example, with classmates or the other parents at your children’s soccer game. You’ll be more comfortable speaking with someone you know and you might be surprised at the results. Let people know about your skills and the kind of work or information you’re looking for. Someone you talk with might have heard about a job opening that would be a good fit for you.
Networking becomes more formal when you:
- follow up on referrals by phone, email or in person
- attend networking events, hosted by career-related groups
How do you develop your networking skills?
Although contacting someone you don’t know can be challenging at first, networking is a skill you can develop. The more you network, the more positive results you’ll experience—and the more your confidence will increase. Try the following tips:
- Make a list of the people in your network including their contact information. Update it regularly.
- Tell everyone in your network that you’re looking for information or job leads. Ask them to keep their eyes and ears open for you.
- Carry business cards with your name, phone number and email address. Hand one to each person you talk to.
- If the people you talk to don’t have the information you need, ask if they can refer you to someone who might.
- When you call or email referrals, tell them who referred you. Make your information request specific. Tell the person exactly what kind of information you need and describe the type of people you want to meet. If you are job hunting, describe the kind of job you are looking for and your qualifications. Keep the conversation or message short. Always thank the person.
At more formal events, you can use these suggestions to network effectively:
- Say hello to anyone you know but keep it brief. You’re there to meet new people so it’s important to mingle.
- Scan the room. Approach a small group or person alone and introduce yourself. Mention your job or the occupation and field you’re interested in.
- Bring lots of business cards with you and hand them out freely.
- Ask people for their business cards and whether you can follow up. Call or email those contacts within a few days. Ask a question about their field or offer them some information. Tell them about your work or work search.
Network to expand your work opportunities
Networking is an effective way of breaking into the work force or expanding your presence once you’re in it. There is probably already someone in your network who can connect you with the opportunities and information you’re looking for. As the people in your network refer you to others, your list of contacts—and your career prospects—will continue to grow.