According to LinkedIn’s global survey, 70% of people were hired at a company where they had a connection and 80% believe that business networking is the most successful way to find a job and advance in your career. Quite simply, it boils down to this: people want to do business with people they know and trust.
Whether you’re looking to return to work after a career break, find a graduate job, or switch careers, business networking is particularly useful. It’s what puts you on the radar of recruiters and other professionals and allows you to build your own grid of business contacts.
But as with most things, to be successful at networking, you need a plan. We’ll share our top networking tips that job seekers, like yourself, can use to land the job of your dreams and show you how to use both online and in-person scenarios to make a lasting impression.
- What is professional networking?
- Why is networking so important to job seekers?
- The dos and don’ts of networking for job seekers
- How can I improve my networking skills at work?
- 3 Top tips for online/virtual networking
- How can job seekers make the most of in-person networking?
- Next steps
What is professional networking?
Professional networking is the practice of building and maintaining relationships with other professionals in your industry or field. It involves intentionally interacting and engaging with individuals who can provide support, guidance, and opportunities for your career development. It is a strategic approach to expanding your professional contacts and fostering mutually-beneficial relationships.
Why is networking so important to job seekers?
Professional networking is extremely important for job seekers for a number of reasons, such as enabling you to hear about exclusive job opportunities, share skills with like-minded professionals, and receive recommendations that will help you advance in your career.
6 Benefits of networking for job seekers
- Accessing exclusive job opportunities
Not all job opportunities are published publicly. Instead, they are filled by referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations, which means job seekers with good connections are more likely to access these exclusive offers. Unfortunately, sometimes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
- Receiving personalised recommendations and introductions
Similarly, when you have a strong network, your connections can recommend you for job openings and vouch for your skills and qualifications. This can give you a competitive edge over other candidates who do not have this validation. Employers are more likely to trust you, therefore, are more likely to hire you!
- Gaining information and expert insights
By connecting with others in your chosen field, you are given the opportunity to learn from others and gain useful insights that could help you improve your skills and knowledge. This is fantastic for your professional development and may even help you when applying to more senior roles.
- Learning from other’s experiences
Listening to others’ experiences can help you in your job search, giving you first-hand insight and top tips. This could include things like navigating the current job market, avoiding common pitfalls, industry-specific interview advice, or accelerating your career progression.
- Build a strong personal brand
Promoting your personal brand is key to demonstrating your expertise and appealing to employers. By consistently engaging with professionals in your industry, attending relevant events, and participating in online discussions, you can showcase yourself as an enthusiastic and proactive professional.
- Developing long-lasting relationships
Networking is so much more than finding jobs, it’s about building mutually-beneficial relationships with professionals in your industry. A solid relationship can lead to ongoing support, collaborations, and future opportunities throughout your career.
The dos and don’ts of networking for job seekers
Before we delve into our top tips for networking for job seekers, here are the basic dos and don’ts you need to know…
|The DOS of networking||The DON'TS of networking|
|Do build connections with like-minded people||Don’t reach out to complete strangers to ask for favours|
|Do join organisations and societies in your chosen field||Don’t put strangers in awkward situations|
|Do develop mutually-beneficial relationships||Don’t hard pitch someone you’ve just met|
|Do share and add value to your network’s online content||Don’t use salesly or desperate language|
|Do remember to connect with people outside of your chosen field of work||Don’t disregard the fact that professionals are very busy and may take a while to get back to you|
|Do write authentic recommendations for other people and endorse their skills||Don’t bombard experts with questions|
How can I improve my networking skills at work?
Improving your networking skills at work is an ongoing process that requires consistency and active engagement. Some ways to improve your networking skills at work include reaching out to colleagues and attending networking events, leveraging social media platforms to stay connected with current and past coworkers or clients, and attending company events.
3 Top tips for online/virtual professional networking
From dedicated networking sites like LinkedIn to digital events like webinars, there are multiple online platforms that you can successfully use to reach out and build your contact base.
LinkedIn should be the first port of call for all business professionals. With 49 million people using LinkedIn to look for jobs each week, it’s the best place for job seekers to start networking. A few things to bear in mind beforehand:
1. Reach out to your old contacts
It’s always worthwhile to keep in touch with your co-workers even after you’ve moved on to a different place. Having connections within your industry is very useful because they’re most likely to know of any new roles or business opportunities. In some cases, these contacts are the ones who post about #hiring in their departments or the company. If you’re not in touch with old colleagues, reach out to them now.
Remember, the purpose of your initial contact is only to touch base and then build rapport from there. Unless you see that the person has recently posted about a role that you’re interested in, don’t write to ask about job opportunities straight off the bat. This can be off-putting and the person will know that the only reason you’re engaging with them is to get something.
Instead, keep your initial interactions more generic. Since you may be engaging with them after a gap of sometime, it’s important to establish a level of comfort first. Sending a personal message is a great start. In fact, over 35% of LinkedIn users say that a casual conversation on LinkedIn Messaging led to a new job opportunity!
2. Allow your contacts time to respond
This is true for your existing contacts but even more so for a new connection. If you’ve reached out to someone, allow them time to get back to you before writing again. Remember business professionals like hiring managers are busy and get multiple in-mails every day. So, if they haven’t responded to your message the same day, it’s probably because they didn’t get around to it. Give it a week before following up.
3. Networking at virtual events
The popularity of digital events such as webinars has boomed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These events hosted on platforms like Zoom provide the advantage of geo-flexibility, which means you can join in from anywhere in the world. Online networking events have certain restrictions. For example – you have limited time to introduce yourself and talk to the right people.
The way to optimise networking opportunities at online events is to:
- Know your goals
It’s important to identify what you want to get out of these events. This will guide your interactions. For example, these sessions typically include webinars on topics ranging from how to set up your LinkedIn page to guidance on joining a Returners programme to get back to work. Not every session is for you. Identify the webinars you’re actually interested in and could get value from and concentrate on those.
- Prepare a 30-second introduction
Many online webinars include an interactive session where the speaker asks you to introduce yourself. For this and any other instances where you might get a chance to speak, it’s good to have a brief pitch ready. Your ‘pitch’ describes what you do and where you want to go from here.
Remember to keep it short and to the point. If you’re nervous about speaking in front of people, consider practising your intro before the event. Share an interesting fact about yourself. Whilst it’s great to mention your professional accomplishments (e.g. I’m an experienced digital marketer with 12 years’ experience. I’ve implemented SEO campaigns that helped my last company XYZ to increase their organic search 25% YoY and grew revenue 12% YoY), chances are people have heard similar intros before. Several times.
A fun fact about yourself or an interesting story from your last job are likely to be more memorable than stats and figures. (e.g. I speak six languages including French and German. This is going to be useful if I have to liaise with European businesses or clients who speak the language)
- Arrange follow-ups
Since online events are time bound, you won’t get time for any in-depth interactions. For this, you should arrange follow-ups with anyone who you’d like to chat with more. Consider sending a personal message or email. E.g. Hi XYZ, I really enjoyed your session and found your tips on how to use transferable skills very useful. I’d love to catch up with you for a quick chat. Are you available anytime next week?
This shows your interest but also allows the person time to respond to you.
How can job seekers make the most of in-person networking?
In addition to virtual networking, there’s a lot more you can do in-person. Here’s our top advice on navigating the world of in-person networking.
There’s a reason why this is #1 on the list under in-person networking tips. It might be tempting to hand out your business card or CV to everyone you meet at a networking event. But the point of networking is to build connections with people. You need to be able to read the room. For example, at a fundraiser or a social event, it’s not a good idea to even talk about work. The first step in networking is meeting people and listening. This is what builds relationships and your network of contacts.
Work the room
When it comes to finding a new job, it can be helpful to try and meet as many people as you can at a networking event, especially if you’re looking to get back to work after a break.
If you’re nervous about meeting new people, try spotting someone who’s by themselves. Chances are they’re nervous too and will be more receptive. But remember, it’s not a good idea to spend the whole time talking with just one person. The idea is to grow your network so work the room and talk to lots of people. Plus, the more people you approach, the more confident you’ll get at talking to people and this will reflect on your body language and overall attitude.
Prep for the event
It’s always handy to prepare a few conversation starters beforehand to help break the ice. If you’re at an event where you want to network with the speakers, do some background research on them to find talking points that you can discuss after their speech.
Networking is a two-way street. You need to nurture your new and existing connections. Remember to follow up with new contacts after an event. Perhaps, share some relevant industry news articles with them on LinkedIn. Or if you share a common interest in yoga and well-being, tag them in a post about related content.
Keep at It
Networking is an ongoing process. You can’t expect to go to one event or attend one webinar and expect to have a job offer the next day! But, the more events you attend, the more people you meet. Any one of those people might be able to open several doors for you.
Planning a career change or a return to work can seem daunting, especially after a career break or when moving to an entirely new industry. Networking and optimising all your business contacts can really help you find the best opportunities for you. Just remember to stay relevant and on people’s radars. Make a habit of regularly posting online. It doesn’t have to be an original post. You could share an interesting article or video that you liked. Also, it doesn’t all have to be cut-and-dried business news. Everyone likes a laugh, so a funny quote or meme works really well. Why not give some of our advice a go and see how you get on?
At FDM, our mission is to bring people and technology together, providing expert training and exclusive client placements for our consultants. We offer multiple support programmes that provide countless networking opportunities for our consultants, including the FDM Staff Networks and Mentoring Programme. For more information or to participate in one of our upcoming events, please get in touch.