While some people find the prospect of networking daunting, it has huge potential to transform your career search. In fact, the Harvard Business Review explains:
“In today’s world, networking is a necessity. A mountain of research shows that professional networks lead to more job and business opportunities, broader and deeper knowledge, improved capacity to innovate, faster advancement, and greater status and authority.”
With that in mind, we understand the value of networking – but what exactly is it? How do you go about doing it? And what about LinkedIn? Read on to discover more.
What is networking and how can it help me in my career?
Networking is the process of cultivating professional relationships, whether this is in person or online (for example, via email or on LinkedIn). Opportunities to network can arise anywhere; you may be able to reach out to existing contacts or you might need to seek out a new connection.
Regardless of who you approach or how you do it, having a strong network of professional contacts can be an invaluable asset from your time as a university student lasting throughout your career. There are numerous benefits to networking, which include:
Gaining an insight into the day-to-day activities of a particular job role
Exploring more about what roles and opportunities there are within a specific sector
Helping you find work experience, a job, or a mentor
Preparing for an interview
Discovering opportunities for progression or promotion once on the career ladder
How do I identify my network and who should I approach?
You may be surprised to discover who is already in your network – and you never know when a particular contact might come in useful for you. It is for this reason that you should always nurture the relationships within your network. Don’t forget that networking is a two-way process so always be open to helping others where appropriate too.
Use this list below to evaluate who is already in your network as well as to discover new ways to reach out:
How can I network successfully?
Networking is a professional skill and therefore is something that can be practiced and refined. As you move throughout your career, you will grow in confidence in this area. Here are some tips to get started:
Think carefully about who to approach and what you want to get out of the meeting
Find out as much as you can about the person you are going to approach using other contacts as well as their organisation website and LinkedIn page
Make a list of the questions you would like to ask
Mention how you got their details, particularly if it was from a named contact or someone you have in common
Think about how you are going to approach the person by phone, email, LinkedIn or face-to-face such as at a careers event
Be brief, professional and flexible e.g. “Can we meet for 20 minutes to talk about…” or 'I can see you are busy; can I talk to you next week?'
Write things down and keep a brief record of conversations
Ensure you listen as much as you speak and remember this is a two-way conversation
If you are networking to enter a competitive sector, keep up-to-date with industry news
If you are attending an in-person event or speaking to someone by video call, remember to dress professionally
Follow up with anyone who supports you with a thank you email
Remember it's a two-way relationship - you're part of their network too!
Keep in touch with your contacts – you don’t want to seem as though you only emerge when you need something
How can I make LinkedIn work for me? Including a video from our team
LinkedIn is a professional networking tool where you can connect with individuals, groups and companies. More than 25 million professionals in the UK alone have created a personal profile that showcases their experience, knowledge and skills, which they then use to contact others.
With more than 31 million companies on LinkedIn you can:
- establish connections with individuals who have roles you’re interested in
- join groups to understand the issues affecting the sector or industry that you want to work in
- research companies or organisations to find out what it’s like to work for them
- find job vacancies
Reasons to use LinkedIn
In this video Luke Lynch, Employability Education Projects Officer, explains how you can make LinkedIn work for you and why this powerful networking tool is something you should be using right now.
How do I develop my LinkedIn profile? Including instructional videos
Watch the videos below for tips on how you can develop sections of your LinkedIn profile.
Your professional headline
Your professional headline is one of the first elements of your profile that LinkedIn users will see and so it's important to get it right.
Find out from Hannah Woolley, Employability Education Manager, how to create a headline to capture attention.
Are you using LinkedIn to make contacts and search for job vacancies? Then you'll need a strong personal summary.
Hannah Woolley, Employability Education Manager, outlines the five steps to take to impress your audience.
How do I make sure my social media is networking and workplace ready?
Businesses have been building their social media presence for quite some time and some employers will look at what potential employees are doing online. This means you need to do two things:
- brush up your public presence
- protect your privacy
Perform a social media audit
Log out of all your social media accounts and then Google yourself. Use quotation marks to get more relevant search results and if you have a popular name add your location or date of birth.
For example: "Joe Thompson" Nottingham. Identify which profiles are yours in the search results. What you see is what potential employers will see.
Create a list of active profiles and decide whether you'd like to use them for professional or personal use. You may encounter some old accounts that need deleting.
Protect your privacy
You don't have to use every social media platform professionally. If you want to keep some accounts for personal use, that's completely fine. Just protect your privacy. If instagram is your scrap book of nights out, make your account private.
Having a social life isn't a crime, but you don't need to expose it to potential employers. Same goes if you want to keep Facebook personal; check your privacy settings are set to 'Friends only'.