Your network is one of, if not THE most valuable tool when looking for your next job. Most people wait till they're unemployed to start caring about their network, and whilst in an ideal world, there’s time to network a couple of weeks regardless of employment status, most people just don’t prioritize it, and their network becomes stagnant. But fear not, we'll cover some useful tips to get your network growing.
Create a strategy and set goals
The very first thing to do is to know your goals, then create a strategy. This may seem like wasted time, but it pays off in the long run and keeps you on track to getting results. Who are you hoping to reach out to? How many times will you interact per day? Will you trial different variations of messages? Where will you track all this? Once you know what you want, you can create a strategy that answers these questions and everything will become a LOT easier.
Clean up your socials, focus on LinkedIn
most people focus on social media for networking and LinkedIn is without a doubt the best professional networking site out there. Clean up your profile, make use of all the sections to get favoured by the algorithm and make sure all information is up-to-date, including links to any recent relevant projects. Facebook groups are also useful depending on the quality, so this would also be a good time to remove any recent images of you passed out at a party on the stairs.
Sounds confusing, but you can stand out with true authenticity. Know what you truly want, rather than what you think people want. Establishing a useful relationship with someone new based on true interests is more fulfilling than if it's based on fakery.
When sending out feelers, asking for advice rather than straight-up asking for a job will be more successful. People like to be seen as experts, and don't like to be ambushed.
Attending events whether virtual or in person, can help you understand what a hiring company is looking for and can put you in that company's eye line. Take these events as a priceless opportunity to ask questions and discover unique company information that might not be listed anywhere else. Don't forget to take the opportunity to greet people and establish relationships where possible, do these two things and you're hitting two birds with one stone, very efficient networking.
It's also worth noting that getting face-to-face deepens a relationship, you're no longer an inbox notification, you're a physical person, an established contact who's enthusiastically looking for a job.
Make those connections
This may seem obvious but making connections is the core of networking, so it's important to get it right. Evaluate your existing network, avoid wiping the slate clean, starting from scratch. You probably know more people than you think, and those people may know other people that can help, so it's vital to tap into your existing network and note down any strong existing ties and start from there. When reaching out to new people try out different messages and evolve the wording based on what works best.
Posting can be passive networking
When posting, aim to post with the idea that a prospective employer is looking at your page. Keep a finger on the pulse of the jobs market of the target role, share industry trends, personal insights, and tag people who will find the posts useful. You can even tag and post about meeting someone for lunch and how productive and fun it was. Sprinkle some posts to do with recent successes, accomplishments and you've got a well-rounded presence.
Alumni Networks and professional groups
These groups can be a great tool to expand a network, as they're effectively a network in themselves! Whether it's college alumni, or from a professional institute, never pass on the opportunity to participate in events, activities, and listings that could get you on the radar of target prospects. In addition, LinkedIn has a feature that shows people who've attended the same institute within job listings which can work in your favour if you make use of alumni networks and professional groups.
Keeping up with engagements
Notice a particular person engaging with your content? Or perhaps someone of interest has just hit ‘follow’, these are both prime times to reach out and engage. Exchanging messages with each other people can provide insights, encouragement and moral support. After all, job hunting can be isolating, so it's important to fill that gap with conversations. Don't be afraid of a conversation reaching its natural end, you can always wait a week or two to start one back up again with a recent development, or trend.
Track your progress
Let's say you've ventured out and tested a strategy, and you're talking to ten new people a week, it's going to be easy to forget conversations with people. Track progress, yes it's admin work, but it'll prevent conversations from dropping off, and you'll be able to bring up topics from other conversations you've had with people if there’s a log in place. You'll be constantly adding value to relationships and conversations.
Be consistent and patient
When your strategy doesn't work, it's so easy to resort to a spray and pray approach with online ad listings. But the ideal opportunity could've been one conversation away. find the problem in the strategy and change it, it's an evolutionary process that rewards hard work with high-quality relationships with people that you could keep in contact with for the rest of your working career.
10 ways to expand your network, it goes without saying there are a lot more methods out there to try, but hopefully, this covers the majority of it. Efficient networking isn't easy, but the payoff can be incredible. Remember to create a plan, track progress, be yourself, focus on relationships and value and you'll be well on the way to growing that network in both quality and quantity.