Network. Network. Network.

by Rachael Altman, Senior Assistant, INALJ Illinois

Network. Network. Network.

rachaelaltmanTaking that first step to put yourself out there can be intimidating, but it’s essential to take calculated risks in order to grow personally and professionally. Networking is about establishing a relationship and a rapport with this person so that you are the first person that comes to mind when an opportunity presents itself.

In the Harvard Business Review article, Never say no to networking, Kathryn Mishew, founder and CEO of The Muse and The Daily Muse, offers the following takeaways on the power of networks:

• Always say yes to invitations, even if it’s not clear what you’ll get out of the meeting.

• When you want something, broadcast that to everyone you meet.

• Show up, and often.

• Be the person they saw yesterday as often as possible.

I’ve discovered that people are very willing to spend time sharing information about their career path, especially if they are passionate about the work they do. But before you start contacting people, you need to do your homework.

First, relax and be yourself. Know your values and your purpose, figure out where you want to focus your efforts, and then create a list of companies and contacts that meets your criteria. In the Harvard Business Review article, Five Steps to Building Your Network, Douglas R. Conant advises to figure out where you want to focus your efforts by asking yourself some important questions:

• Do you want to work for a large corporation, a medium-sized company, or a startup?

• Are you interested in marketing, sales, manufacturing, IT or any other specific function?

• What are your geography limitations?

Figuring out what you want to do and where you want to go allows you to branch out and connect with people with different skills and experiences. Your network can be your strongest asset for growing in your current position, launching a new career, and challenging and expanding your perspective.

Build your professional social media presence

Use tools and technology to your advantage. In the article, 7 (Must-Have) Tools for Your Job Hunting Kit, Naomi House, founder of I Need A Library Job, states, “most of us already use tools in our job hunt, but what we may not be doing is using them together . . . Especially where social media is concerned, our online presence can help us connect and network with potential employers no matter where we are.”

Update your LinkedIn profile. Make it polished, professional, and reflective of your authentic self. Utilize keywords that will attract potential employers to your profile. Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your career path, and join in the conversations in those groups. Use LinkedIn to connect with people who have the kind of jobs you want or who work at companies where you’d like to work.

LinkedIn creates the opportunity to reach out to people for information interviews and potential job opportunities. Send messages to people in your network, get introduced to new contacts, and, if you can afford the additional fee, it may be worth it to join LinkedIn Premium, which allows you to send InMail to people who are not in your network.

Attend conferences and networking events

Of course, the setting of your networking depends how formal or informal you should be. Regardless of the setting, introduce yourself, share some of your interests and passions, and ask questions so that you create a conversation.

Most professional organizations and companies have calendars with upcoming networking events and webinars. It’s a good idea to check these websites for updates, join listservs, and follow these organizations and companies on social media.

If you’re attending an event, do some research on the location, organization, and people who may be there. Know the crowd, dress to impress, and bring business cards and copies of your resume (just in case you have the opportunity to pass it along).

Utilize your personal network and surround yourself with the right people.

Your friends and family will love you no matter what, but they most likely won’t help you get a job unless they know you’re qualified and have a good work ethic. Your most power tool is your personal network. Friends, family, teachers, colleagues, mentors, they all know people who know people who know people, and these people may be able to connect you with an exciting opportunity. For example, my friend recently got an internship with a technology non-profit. She learned of this internship through me, applied for the position, I referred her for the job, and she got the job. She was totally qualified, but vouching for her tech skills as well as her character helped secure the position.

Surround yourself with dreamers and doers, those who inspire you, those who challenge you, those who can support you through this journey, and remember to keep moving forward. Be not afraid of moving slowly. Be afraid of standing still. – Chinese Proverb

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