Networking 101

Everyone has a network, but most graduates are not aware of how to make this work for their career search. With FB and numerous other social sites, we tend to forget that there is a network of people around us everyday-in person that we can engage with to help us find a job. Although social media has expanded our networks, nothing beats face to face, real time, in person connections! On a personal one to one level, we can all make a list of friends and family, but when you look a bit deeper you can expand your list with a number of community contacts as well. How about the manager and crew at a local coffe shop who have seen you almost every day for the past four years, or the person that does your hair? Believe it or not, I know of a few people who got great contacts and referrals from their stylist! My own stylist makes it a point to introduce clients to each other while they are sitting waiting for their hair treatments to process…I’ve met some super interesting people. I met a restaurant owner looking for a company to develop an app for his business, and by sharing a contact that I knew of, I expanded my own network in the process. Dig deep and think about the people you meet or do business with every day. How about the real estate agent that helped you find and buy your home, or the neighbor that just retired from the company you really want to work for?  The possibilities are endless.

When you make a conscious decision to engage in networking to expand your career search, you have to open yourself up to meeting and greeting everyone you meet as a potential reference or sometimes even an employer. That person sitting next to you at the salon, with the head full of foils and goop like yourself could very well be the branch manager of a local bank, or a police constable, or a lawyer, or accountant, or, or, or…the point is, that this is the perfect opportunity to make an impression based on your personality, and the mutual sharing of experiences that you talk about. 

Don’t be a negative Ned or Nellie! Everyone knows how hard it is to find a job, but the impression you make by being upbeat and positive about your career search sticks with people. That person you’ve just met will often offer their own ideas on where you should look. Networking begins with opening up about yourself, but keeping the personal information private. For example, while you’ve engaged the bank manager in conversation about camping, you might want to keep the story about the drunken fireside antics to yourself. Same goes for the topics of bad interviews, or the whining about hundreds of non-replies to your applications. Be friendly, positive and optimistic. 

When we think about networking, today’s trend is to look towards social media sites. While social media sites have taken networking to the international level, we don’t often want or need to expand our career search out of country or out of our own city. If you do want to expand your search to an international level, the social sites are a great way to source out information to help you in your search. There are a number of great networking sites for people with like interests and if they happen to be local, there is often an opportunity to meet some of these people at a local event. As an example, there is a local computer society in our city. They have a great website for job opportunities in the computing field, but more importantly they advertise and host a number of community networking, sharing events at neighbourhood coffee houses, or borrowed boardrooms at local IT companies. They have interesting guest speakers, and welcome suggestions for upcoming topics. Their goal is to create a venue for like minded individuals and especially with those that are  job hunting to network. Potential employers often host these events and this is the perfect opportunity to meet possible employers, or others in the search process that might share ideas. Local business and special interest groups are the best ways to network in your city. 

A few years ago everyone carried business cards or contact cards, until mobile technologies took over and made it easier to share contact information. There are still business cards being passed around though. An interesting tip I learned when networking is that if someone offers you a card, simply snap a photo of this to reference later. You can keep it if you want to, or simply hand it back to the person with a comment such as, ” thanks, I’ve added your business card to my contacts.”  As an unemployed graduate you won’t have a business card, so be prepared…add yourself to your own contact list and when asked for your contact info you can either email it to the person, or open the contact listing so they can snap a photo. Be sure to add some key bits of information to the notes section that will trigger a memory for  when the person looks at it later. Another trick is to simply type up your contact info and a brief resume and store it as a note….when asked, you can simply email this to the person who requested your contact info. 

Networking is a daily event; from the fishmonger to the local deli owner, or from the manager of a neighborhood coffee shop to the branch manager of a nation wide company, you never know who you will meet. Everyone is a potential reference or even an employer!