Networking is one of the most effective ways to look for a new role. It’s a skill every job seeker should develop but it’s especially important if you’ve taken a career break and are looking to get back into your profession.
Networking has a number of advantages. It can help you find out about jobs before they’re widely advertised. Often jobs aren’t advertised at all and networking is an effective way of finding these ‘hidden’ opportunities. And, it can certainly give you an edge in the recruitment process if you’re approaching a company via a referral or personal introduction, rather than ‘going in cold’.
What is networking?
It could be attending meetings at a professional institute, a conference, seminar or exhibition. It could be reaching out and connecting with previous colleagues, customers, competitors and suppliers. LinkedIn is a brilliant way to research and connect with people who may be able to help you.
Here are some steps you can take to develop your networking strategy:
Create a directory of your network
Think about the people you’ve worked with: previous managers, customers, suppliers, associates and other people that you know. Create a list and then rank your contacts by how valuable you think they’ll be to you, and how comfortable you feel approaching them.
When it comes to reaching out, start with the people you feel very comfortable getting in contact with but who may not be at the top of your ‘value to me’ list. This will help you get in the swing of networking and build your confidence. Plus, if things don’t go according to plan you haven’t wasted a higher value contact.
Work out what you want to achieve from each conversation. Are you looking for more introductions? Can they advise you on your CV or introduce you to someone who’s hiring? Can they suggest any organisations that might be looking for new talent? Could they give you advice or information about a particular sector?
Knowing what you want from each of your contacts will make it easier to approach them confidently.
Get your elevator pitch right
When you’re networking you’ll probably only get a short amount of time with someone. If you meet somebody at an event, you may only have a few minutes. So, it’s essential that you’re able to describe yourself succinctly and confidently. This is your ‘elevator pitch.’ It should only be 20-30 seconds. Here’s an example:
'I help companies grow sales and profits'. This is much clearer than 'I am a business development manager' and immediately conveys the value you can add to a business.
This is one of the golden rules of networking. Many people will be open to sharing their ideas and occasionally their contacts with you, but you must be willing to offer your help and advice in return. If you aren’t willing to reciprocate you may find that people are less willing to help you.
Firstly, make sure your profile is up to date and complete. It’s important to make sure that your LinkedIn profile matches your CV. Then you can begin connecting with relevant people, joining relevant groups and contributing to discussions.
CABA and ICEAW run regular events for past and present ICAEW members and ACA students. This a great way to build confidence, make new connections and keep up to date with the latest developments in your industry. Take a look at what’s coming up
This article was written by the career coaching experts at Chiumento.
The chances are, you’re probably already networking a lot more than you think, but practicing with a career coach can help you make the most of all your networking opportunities.