Professional Networking Techniques
In the American workforce today it can be hard to get a foot in the door, even with a comprehensive education. No matter what industry you’re entering, proficiency in your chosen career field should be your highest priority as your skills are what will land you a job. However, anyone determined to enter a career immediately after completing their education should also be focused on networking with potential employers.
Networking is developing connections and relationships with professionals within your chosen field and then using those connections to help you get a job in that field. Many career counselors today will say that networking is among the most important factors in entering any profession because of the competitive nature of job searching. Networking events are common in most industries, where experienced professionals, students and job seekers attend social gatherings for the purpose of making new connections and gaining industry insight. While networking events are extremely useful, opportunities to make connections with other professionals in your industry can be anywhere. Young professionals entering a new career should always be on the lookout for networking opportunities. Let’s review some generally solid networking advice.
In any social situation, job seekers need to be fully prepared to explain to potential employers why they should be hired. Creating and memorizing an “elevator pitch,” or brief sales pitch, focused on your abilities and education in your field is important. Make your elevator pitch concise and be sure to only include valuable information such as your degree, any certifications you’ve earned, other related accomplishments, and your skillset within the field.
When preparing your networking efforts, spend some time forming questions you would want to ask experienced professionals or hiring managers. Questions like, “How did you get started in your career,” and “What are you most passionate about in this field,” and “What advice would you give someone entering this field” are always good to ask. Though it might seem awkward asking questions yourself, it tells potential employers that you are ambitious and interested.
A huge part of preparation, and job searching in general, is creating an outstanding resume. This is probably something that you, as a student or job seeker, already knew – but the message bears repeating. Creating a resume that makes employers take notice can be difficult, depending on the field in which you are searching. There are countless informative guides online about crafting the perfect resume. The main thing to remember is that no employer wants to read through large paragraphs or multiple pages to learn about you, and that employers are really only concerned with your skills, education, and experience (if you have any). Remember that employable information is most important, and style is secondary.
The modern job search involves a lot of online applications and research. Most companies today allow job seekers to apply for positions through their websites or other career placement websites such as Indeed.com or Careerbuilder.com. Getting your online application noticed can be tough. Online job postings tend to have more applicants, so it is easy for yours to get lost in the clutter. This is why online networking is important. Making professional connections online can help put a face to your resume. A strong professional online presence when job searching and networking is essential. Here are some tips for solidifying your professional online presence:
- Resume and Cover Letters – if you choose to save your resume and cover letter to the various job search websites, be absolutely sure they are error-free and professional looking (correctly formatted, no useless information, etc.). It is also a good idea when applying to online job postings to include links to your social media profiles and personal website if you have one.
- Social Media – most employers will do as much research on applicants as possible, including a review of your social media profiles. Applicants should triple-check that their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social media pages are cleaned of unflattering or incriminating pictures, posts, or comments. A clean social media presence will tell employers that you are responsible in how you conduct yourself online. Using social media to job search can prove effective if done right. Use sites like LinkedIn to network with other professionals in your field, and even apply directly to job postings on companies’ LinkedIn pages.
- Email – when applying for jobs or networking over email, always try to address the email to a specific person, preferably the company’s hiring manager or specific department manager. Use proper grammar and keep the email short and to the point. And, of course, remember to attach your resume and cover letter.
No matter what industry you’re entering, presenting yourself as a qualified professional is always priority when networking. Many people feel awkward and uncomfortable networking with potential employers or experienced professionals. While completely natural, this is something you have to overcome. The fact is that most of the professionals you’ll try to network with generally want to help. Making new connections is just a part of being a professional. You should approach each networking opportunity with a confident, collected, objective-focused mindset. Show the person you’re networking with that you are knowledgeable in your field and are eager to enter a career in it. Here are some tips for successful networking interactions:
- Presentation – when meeting a new connection, always give a firm handshake and look the person in the eye when you’re speaking with them. Dress like a working professional in your field, but remember that it’s usually alright to incorporate your own style, as long as it is not distracting. Speak articulately as possible and be as responsive as possible.
- Speech – be attentive to the conversation and ask questions when you can. It’s always a good idea to do some research on the person you’re networking with if possible. Stick to professional conversation about your future on the field, your goals, and if you have shared interests of any kind feel free to talk about it. Above all remain cool, calm, and collected. Remember, you are a professional just trying to advance your career.
With these tips in mind, you should be ready to start spreading your name and making connections. Networking can be daunting, but is necessary for career success. You’ll likely be doing more of it as your career progresses, so it’s a good idea to start perfecting the process now.