A job seeker responded to a recent blog about the importance of face time by asking “Who are all these people I am supposed to be meeting with? How do I find them, approach them and set up meetings?” This job seeker, like many others, held a job that didn’t involve a lot of person-to-person contact. After being laid off, she is left feeling she has no network and isn’t sure how to get started creating one. Recent college grads and people who have been out of the professional world for awhile may relate.
Start Close to Home
You probably already have at least a small network, even if you don’t realize it. Begin with your inner circle: family and good friends. Let them know you’re building a professional network and ask them to be a part of it. Add them to your professional network on LinkedIn. (If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, you should start one. It’s a powerful job search tool and a great way to build and track your network.)
Adding relatives and social contacts to your professional network is a very normal practice in today’s interconnected world. Also don’t hesitate to have people join your network who are in completely different fields, appear to have no connections to your career goals, or have a very limited network themselves. Get started with people you are very comfortable with.
Each time you add someone to your professional network:
- Ask for insights on their area of expertise and start learning about their professional world
- Let them know about your job search by sharing your value proposition (what you can do) and your goal (what you are looking for)
- Ask who else they recommend you network with
- Thank them
Now expand that circle by considering those you cross paths with in social pursuits, hobbies, sports, book clubs, neighborhood and school activities. If you are on Facebook, consider every one of your friends a member of your network. Further the relationship by inviting them to join your network on LinkedIn. For more ideas on including social contacts in your professional network read: Recognizing Unique Networking Opportunities.
Past Professional Contacts
Think back to each job you have held and locate colleagues, former bosses, clients and others you crossed paths with, even if you’ve been out of the work world for awhile. LinkedIn makes it very easy to reconnect because you can search by company. Recent college grads should consider dorm mates, sorority and fraternity friends, professors, advisors and fellow students. Stay-at-home parents may reach out to other parents and their partners, along with school teachers and administrators.
Expanding the Circle
The most challenging, but critical part of building your network is to include people you do not even know yet. Some great contacts include: Industry and thought leaders in your field, recruiters, and people with expertise in your job type. Easy ways to initiate contact with people like this include following them on Twitter, joining professional groups and making contact through LinkedIn. Learn how to reach out to new people on LinkedIn by reading Using LinkedIn Groups to Make Connections.
Because building a network is so critical to job search success, set goals. Consider targets for adding new people at each level. It’s quicker and easier to add people from your inner circle but push yourself to expand at all levels because it’s the people you do not yet know that are most likely to uncover hidden jobs for you.
Now It’s Face Time!
As you grow your network, begin practicing in-person meetings. Start with having networking get-togethers with people with common connections. Get a feel for how those meetings work and how they can benefit your job search. Then expand to holding similar conversations with those you don’t know as well and people who are completely new to you. Learn more about holding in-person meetings by reading Making Informational Interviews Work for You.
More on networking:
- Questions to ask when Networking
- The Art of the Cold Contact
- Turning Social Events into Networking Opportunities