Building a Network
For professionals, graduates and academics, networking is one of the most useful things they can do to find a good position. It does take confidence, good communication skills, determination, creativity and a lot of other things, not least of which luck to make it a success… Networking is not necessarily there to get you a job though. Ideally it's a give and take relationship where you support eachother. A good strong network can help you further your interests, can challenge you to develop, entices you to do better in your field and generally enhances you as a person. It gives you a feeling of commitment, dedication and connection.
Connection is exactly the key to building a successful network. As I already mentioned, that connection goes both ways and you have to be prepared to give as well as to accept.
The best way, but not the only way, to make a network stronger and to make it work is to start giving. Get involved in interest groups, professional groups, online professional communities, LinkedIn etc… linked to your subject. Answer questions, offer ideas, get discussing etc… in short, create links… and at the same time get yourself known.
Most people like to help out, which gives them a good feeling. Every subject, including the subject you would like to work or specialise in no doubt, brings up as many questions as it resolves. Equally, skills take time to build up and may require other people's advice. In the same places you can offer advice you could ask for support and advice in developing your understanding and skills. In this respect, don't be afraid to get in contact with the top people in your field. If they can't or won't talk to you they will let you know.
There are some tools which you can use to help you with this:
your fellow students can and will become your future colleagues, fellow scientists, staff, managers etc… Some professional communities are relatively small and you may come across the same people wherever you go, others are larger… Your fellow students can easily become part of your network. So, while you are studying, take as much part as you can in student societies, clubs etc…
just like your fellow students could be part of your wider professional network, so can your tutors and other university staff. Make sure you build and maintain a strong working relationship with university staff. In many cases, they may be able to provide you with a reference once you graduate and move on to your first job. To increase your chances of getting your network going or to increase your network, get involved in professional bodies by volunteering, taking part in professional development courses and conferences if you can etc… Alternative options in your local community could be breakfast clubs, where professionals or business people come together at set times to socialise and network, or the Rotary Club, etc…
if you can't find what you're looking for… make your own. Even at university, you can get a group of people together and start your own interest group, possibly with help of the student union or even the university. Even after university you can start your own interest group in your area or field of interest. This could start very informally, just colleagues getting together to socialise, discuss and network.
this was described to me as the 'facebook for adults' in in some ways it is. It's not somewhere where you want to post everything that happens to you during the day, but it could be an important part of your networking, if not your jobsearch and applications. I've been reliably told that employers and recruitment companies, especially for top positions, go and have a look at your online profile to get a good idea of who you are and what you have to offer. LinkedIn is an important part of that and not having a LinkedIn profile can work against you almost as much as having a bad profile could. There will be more on using LinkedIn and other networking tools in the other Moving On subpages on this webpage.
In short, to use linked in to network you can:
- build a strong profile. Regard your profile on LinkedIn as your second CV, but don't be tempted to put your CV on there. It's still an open website where information is accessible to anyone. Just like elsewhere on the internet it pays to be sensible. Don't forget your photo… not one where you've just come back from the beach or after a night out, but a good professional photo of yourself.
- link up with people you already know and write good feedback for them if you can.
- become active by registering for some interest groups in your field. Choose these wisely to maximise their usefulness and minimise the time you spend posting. Don't bank on job groups on LinkedIn; remember, you are networking, you're not soliciting for jobs. Ask support and offer support and build up your good name.
Getting in contact with employers:
The whole point of looking for work is… getting work. Unless you are going to set up as self employed/freelance, employers are key. Again, this is not about walking up to employers and telling them to give you a job. It's more about exploring what you need to do to get into a particular line of work by asking employers, learning and developing… and if someone offers you a job there and then, all the better.
Networking through friends and family
In short: tell everyone you are looking and what you are looking for!
This is a special kind of networking in the sense that it's a ready made network and that its members are probably people who care about you as a person and about your welfare and success. It's important not to underestimate the power of networking through friends and family. Your initial circle may be relatively limited, but go one set of links further and your network grows. Your friends and family have their own network and so on…
After you've told everyone you are looking and what you are looking for, remind them whenever you can without going to far. You don't want to alienate any of your friends and family over a job!