Networking: How Important It Really Is and How to Do It Right
It’s ALL about who you know.
While there is still the common misconception that getting by on one’s merits and qualifications is a safe bet, the naked truth on the matter, according to Harvard’s School of Business, is that 65 to 85 percent of all jobs are obtained through networking. The importance of building a network of contacts, both related to your personal field of work and in a broader sense, is immense, though developing the proper strategies to meet people who are complementary to your goals is rarely taught, and getting started can be tough. Luckily for you, however, this guide has been carefully put together to help all of the young, goal-oriented individuals out there get the ball rolling.
Step 1: Using Your Core Group
The general starting point for expanding your network begins with social gatherings of people you already know. Keeping in touch with people is difficult even for some of the closest friends, however the effort it takes to do so is invaluable in the long run. There is no telling where you will end up down the road, nor when anyone you meet along the way may be an asset to you.
Step 2: Setting Professional Goals
In order to better be able to strategically make connections and develop professional relationships with the right people, you must first establish your goals. This can be useful in mapping out where you would like to end up, what you would like to achieve through the networking process, and roughly how you intend on getting there. Keep this list of goals throughout your networking efforts as a reference point to track your progress, as well as to expand upon once your initial goals have been met.
Step 3: Social Media
Social media is something we all use anyway, so why not make it beneficial to your career? If you haven’t already, set up an account on LinkedIn. This seems pretty straight forward, yet many young professionals have still neglected to make use of this extremely valuable tool. To put it simply: it’s free, it takes a matter of minutes, and it can land you a job one day. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
In addition to making use of strictly professional social media platforms, also make sure that your personal profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr promote an image of yourself that you would want to project out into the working world. This could mean taking down certain photos, or adjusting your privacy settings.
Step 4: Create A System
Once networking becomes a part of your daily routine, you’re going to notice a huge influx of cards, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and such coming your way. Without the proper organizational system, these will be more of a nuisance to you than a benefit. A filing system for this type of contact info can be as simple as an address book which is used exclusively for business contacts, or it can be a virtual filing system stored on your smartphone for convenience and portability. Regardless of which one you choose, the information that is vital for you to keep about contacts includes their name, position, the name of their company, all contact info available (phone number, e-mail address, work extension, etc.), their interests, common acquaintances, and any other relevant information you may need.
Step 5: Expand Your Network
Once you’ve locked down the former four steps, you will be ready to take on the task of expanding beyond your friends and family. Some suggestions for doing so include:
- People from your current and past jobs.
- Mutual friends and family friends with similar career paths.
- Attend professional association events and networking nights.
- Create business cards and distribute them frivolously.
- Become active on LinkedIn and other professional social media outlets.
Using these suggestions, you will expose yourself to new faces in your field, and create new relationships with potential employers or even coworkers. Having a solid, positive professional relationship with those in similar circles as yourself provides not only a basis for career growth, but opportunities to meet new people as well.
Step 6: Maintain Your Network
As I mentioned in the first step, keeping in contact with people is crucial towards building a stable and ever-expanding network. Reach out to your contacts frequently, discuss professional ideas and business ventures (even hypothetical ones), and whatever you do, NEVER stop networking. Even once your contact base is at a magnitude that you are satisfied with, people are constantly changing direction and new contacts are always presenting themselves. There is no ‘end’ to the networking exercise. It is an ongoing practice that you will use from the start of your career, and quite possibly throughout the rest of your life.
With this, I wish you all the best of luck in your networking endeavors, and I hope to exchange cards with you in the future.
By Karyna Evangelista
About the author:
Karyna is a Montréal native with a penchant for all things artistic. Whether it be fashion, music, visual arts, or literature, you can find her all up in the latest happenings around the city. Her affiliation with fashion comes from a desire to see a primarily female-focused industry take on a more conscious and empowering stance in the struggle towards equality, as well as the desire to compile every so-called “rule” of fashion, only to consequently break them and see what happens. When she’s not busy tending to these preoccupations, she’s probably hard at work on her Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies at Concordia University, or hanging with her other half, Biscuit (who happens to be a tiny poodle). Legend has it that if you ask her real nicely, she might even whip you up a batch of her ever-tasty veggie chili in exchange for some stimulating conversation over a few (more) glasses of red wine.