Many job seekers have built networks in the past, but as your career evolves and the industry landscape changes, so do your networking needs.
So how do you build a network that helps you gain traction with your current goals?
1) Figure out where you want to be.
You may find that your career trajectory has shifted.
Do you wish to remain in a leadership role?
Do you want to pivot to a different scope?
Are you hoping to change industries or give back?
It’s hard to make progress if you’re unclear on your destination. It’s also difficult for those who want to help you to know how to best advocate for you they’re not sure what you do or what you want to do.
When you’re engaged in networking conversations and trying to generate leads, focus on related functional skills you hope to use in your target role. For example, if you were a general manager and now prefer an individual contributor engineer role, discuss your engineering skills, not P&L.
2) Forward-focused content and conversations.
Many job seekers treat their experience like a career retrospective, rather than focusing on what they offer the hiring organization. You want to focus on solving the hiring company’s problems.
Tying in a few relevant accomplishments as evidence you can help is fine. Launching into an origin story is too much.
3) Establish mentor relationships and learn from each other.
Mentor relationships can be incredibly rewarding and it isn’t a one-way road. Ask lots of questions of each other, be prepared to challenge your own assumptions, and find out about the latest thinking on topics in your industry.
Ask your mentee:
What tech is worth learning about?
What do you see changing in this industry in the next 5 years?
What do you wish our industry would learn?
Accepting feedback is a great way to hone active listening skills and gain new perspective.
4) Network at all levels.
Many job seekers only look up — they target conversations with those higher on the corporate ladder based on the assumption that they are the decision makers.
However, more and more organizations offer referral programs and many hiring authorities place a premium on candidates who come with a referral. Any employee could offer a referral or provide meaningful intel on a hiring organization.
Some internal employees even actively advocate for candidates, following up to make sure hiring managers received their resume and putting in a good word based on personal interactions.
5) Embrace networking online.
Many job seekers are able to connect, network, and generate leads quickly and efficiently by leveraging online networking tools.
LinkedIn has expanded into a vibrant networking platform where job seekers can quickly gain visibility and credibility through comments, content, and conversations in the messages side of the platform. Also, you can use it to research hiring authorities, potential internal contacts, and content posted by your target companies.
Lunchclub allows you to enter your areas of interest and sets you up for 45min sessions each week.
Meetup or Meetingplace.io can help you find local groups and events in your field. Check activity before signing up for a group/event. Some groups are not very active.