Are you a recent graduate or on the hunt for a new job? The next step to develop your career and professional identity is to start networking. Networking revolves around the classic line; “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. This doesn’t necessarily mean that, regardless of your competency or merit, nepotism will be the one and only way to progress your career. Rather, it is important to make sure you are not a stranger by communicating your skills and experience and connecting with professionals in your desired field. Work is, to a degree, a social environment, so why not get your foot in the door by finding like minded people who share your values and who you would ideally like to work with? This Business Kitz article is here to show you that networking doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable, scary or ‘inauthentic’ experience and will provide you with the key steps to connect with industry professionals, how to maintain your digital footprint and what useful benefits are in store.
What are the benefits of networking?
Apart from the obvious benefits of helping you find a job, gaining referrals and exploring opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise found, networking can also provide you with support from people who may have more experience, gives you an insight to what skills are in demand from employers and may show you what the future of your industry could look like and therefore, what to be prepared for. This allows you to stay ahead of the game, giving you a key competitive advantage. Rather than looking at networking as a linear process to finding secure employment, it is actually more of an ongoing venture that can still occur while you are working. It acts as a way to form mutually beneficial relationships, where you can seek and share advice and support others that have reached out to connect with you; like an ‘inner circle’ for your professional life.
What you can do to start networking
Go online. If standing in an open room with groups of company representatives, worrying about whether your outfit has met the business casual brief isn’t your cup of tea, reaching out via online platforms and social media will still put you ahead of others who passively scroll but don’t engage. Connecting online is also becoming the norm after the technological era of the pandemic.
Step 1: Review your digital footprint
92% of employers use social networks to recruit new employees and will often search your name to find out more about you. It is vital to assess your Googleability to ensure that your information appears on the first page of the web and that your digital footprint highlights your professional identity rather than your personal, and in some cases, a potentially unhelpful one. One way to maintain your ideal digital footprint is by ensuring that you are notified every time you are searched for online by creating an alert for your name on Google Alerts.
Step 2: Update your social media networks
Social media plays a key role in the process of learning about companies and industry professionals, searching for candidates and connecting with people. Some social media platforms are used more commonly than others for business networking, therefore it is important to be aware of which ones to use and how to communicate your current or ongoing experience.
- LinkedIn: The ‘go-to’ for networking, with over 58 million companies listed on the platform and 40% of firms discovering candidates based on skills filters. It is best to update your profile to show the most recent projects you have worked on, any partnerships or current experience being undertaken and list your skills and software knowledge.
- Twitter: This social media platform is a great way to see what activities companies are undertaking, how they are developing and what trends in the industry people are responding to. To reap the benefits of this social network, ensure that you are sharing your projects or examples of your work to demonstrate your expertise and show what you are passionate about to connect to people with similar interests or ideologies. It is also helpful to find people directly by searching for their profiles.
- Facebook: Facebook’s facilitation of events and groups allows you to join communities that you are interested in and attend functions or conferences to connect with people. It is important to assess what you have been tagged in, how to tag others in relevant posts to progress your professional relationships and to keep the photos and information on your profile up-to-date.
Step 3: Message industry professionals
Reach out to ask questions, seek advice or connect through a mutual friend or peer presents you with a higher chance of finding professional opportunities than having a detailed profile and being an inactive user. Most social networking sites have a direct message feature that can be used instead of sending an email to the company which makes networking easier and more personal.
Step 4: Join groups and attend events
Joining groups on Facebook and following businesses will help you find networking events to attend. There are also various other functions beyond networking events that can help you develop your career; discussion panels, conferences or launches will also garner a crowd of people from different companies that you can introduce yourself to, or just have a discussion about the event and your reasons for attending!
Step 5: Connect, discuss and listen
While you may picture the narrative of walking into a conference room, introducing yourself to someone, obtaining a business card and going home, networking does not always have to look like this. Begin by talking about your values, passions and what you wish to see in the business world and you may find a more meaningful connection based on intrinsic motivators over extrinsic motivators, such as immediately landing a job offer. Allow yourself to treat networking as a process rather than seeking instant recognition or reward and trust in yourself and your expertise.
With your digital footprint being the first stepping stone to successful professional networking, the key takeaway is to protect your professional identity. If you find yourself having issues or legal matters arise, we recommend seeking legal advice with our sister company, Legal Kitz. You can book a free 30-minute consultation with their experienced and highly qualified team via our website. If you are in the process of hiring and are looking for employment agreements or need to update your business policies, Business Kitz has a range of customisable documents to make your life easier.