Networking occurs in many settings, both formal and informal. Professional events, careers fairs, conferences, workshops and social events all offer the opportunity for you to make connections.
You may equate networking with schmoozing, and recoil at the idea. Remember that everyone starts their career somewhere, and most people will be willing to offer advice if you are friendly and respectful.
If it feels appropriate, ask people for their business card when you meet them, and ask if you could contact them for some advice.
Always follow-up with anyone who was helpful or who you would like to meet in the future. Send them an email within a day or two to thank them for their time and any advice they gave you, or just to say that you enjoyed meeting them.
This is also then the perfect opportunity to connect with them via LinkedIn.
Don’t have an automatic expectation that your contacts will help you, and don’t ask directly for a job. By presenting yourself as enthusiastic and optimistic you can start to build relationships. If they like you, they are more likely to want to help, or even give you a job.
Once you have made initial contact, you may wish to try and arrange a meeting to gain advice and discuss any possible opportunities.
Before the meeting, plan some topics for discussion, for example:
- Can you describe a typical working week?
- What do you enjoy most about your job?
- How did you get into the role?
- Has the role changed since you’ve been in post?
- Who else should I be talking to?
- Are there any groups or events I should attend?
- Are there any publications I should read?
- Would you recommend any particular work experience?
- What would you do if you were me?
If you get the opportunity, show them your CV or portfolio and ask their advice. You could ask:
- How does my CV look?
- What would you change or modify?
- Do you have any advice or ideas for me?
After meeting a contact
Always thank them for their time and advice. Make a note of what you have found out to remind yourself when applying for jobs.