Job Networking: A Foolproof Introduction

Some interesting research recently published by the Employment Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University suggests that the oft cited phrase “It’s not what you know but who you know that’s important” really is important when it comes to seeking employment.

This sounds great, but what if you’re a new graduate starting your journey into the world of work, just exactly how do you get to know the right people?  How do you go about building up a network of contacts who can help you in your job search?

Image: Voka - Kamer van Koophandel Limburg

Networking is essentially about building up a pool of social and professional contacts who can help you with your career planning and job hunting; it’s about getting to know and making relationships with people who might be helpful to you and your career.

Why?

Ever asked someone how they got their job and been told “Well I was in the right place at the right time”?  You were probably left thinking “mmm great but that doesn’t really help me!”  That’s the point of networking; it can help to put you in the right place at the right time or more accurately, increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time.  Confused?  Bear with me on this!

Networking is all about making contact with people who can help you, give you some inside information perhaps, notify you about an upcoming vacancy or the name of the right person to send your CV to.  It’s this inside info that can help to put you in the right place at the right time.

Someone once said “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” and this is certainly true of job hunting; it’s easier to know a profession when you’re on the inside and networking enables you to benefit from an insider’s view whilst you’re on the outside.

It’s also a great way to develop your communication skills, meet people from a range of different backgrounds, to engage in discussions and share ideas, to get and give useful tips on job hunting, to gain knowledge and insights into different job sectors; to be in the loop basically!

 

Who?

It’s not just about making contact with strangers; your network includes your friends, friends of friends, family, family of friends plus all the other people you might have had contact with during your time at uni such as lecturers, employers and careers advisers too.  In fact, it’s almost anyone you can think of.

We all have a network; it’s not just the preserve of the few and once you start to build your network you’ll find that most people are willing to help. Remember it’s not just about your contacts but their contacts too!

 

Where?

Anywhere you see an opportunity!  It can be done face to face or online – Linkedin is a good example of an online professional networking site.  To be effective networking online though you also need to be willing and able to network face to face.  Attending employer presentations, networking and alumni events organised by your uni or Chamber of Commerce can be a good way to get the ball rolling.

 

When?

Any time you see an opportunity!  Start with your family and friends; let them know your plans and things you’re interested in.  Think about the contacts you’ve got through uni; lecturers, postgrad students, employers and anyone else you’ve had contact with.  Do you know anyone who is doing or has done a job you’re interested in?  Who are their contacts?  Can they put you in touch with someone who could give you some really useful insights?  And what about setting up a professional profile on Linkedin?

 

How?

If this is all new to you and the idea of networking fills you with terror then worry not; there’s lots of resources out there to help you!  There are whole books and websites devoted to networking and You Tube videos so you can see it in action.

Building a profile on Linkedin can be a good place to start as this enables you to summarise your achievements, knowledge and skills and to collect your thoughts so that when it comes to the face to face bit you can do it with confidence.  If you’re new to Linkedin there’s a graduate guide to help you with some of the basics and remember to keep it professional and up to date.  Don’t be a lurker though – your talents and achievements won’t take you anywhere if people don’t know you exist!

Remember too networking is not about schmoozing for jobs and going all out to big yourself up (which let’s face it, is all terribly un-British anyway).  It’s about making contacts who could be useful to you and your career.  You can get people interested in you by taking an interest in them.  Asking a contact how they got into their job or sector is a great conversation starter.

So what are you waiting for?  Think about your existing network of contacts and how you can develop your network.  All that remains for me to ask is who are you going to contact first?

Rebecca Valentine – Careers Adviser, University of Edinburgh Careers Service

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Categories: General Career Advice

Author:rebeccavalentine

Careers Consultant and Technology Enhanced Delivery Lead at the University of Edinburgh

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7 Comments on “Job Networking: A Foolproof Introduction”

  1. Darren C
    August 18, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    Rebecca, as a student, I find my LinkedIn profile looks quite…thin. It seems as if the platform is more built for those currently in the workplace. Do you have any advice on how I can built my presence?

    • Rebecca Valentine
      August 20, 2010 at 8:57 am #

      Hi Darren,

      Great question and thanks for reading the post.

      A couple of questions spring to my mind – what’s your degree subject and what industry/occupation are you hoping to get into once you graduate?

      I can understand your concerns about your profile, especially if you’ve looked at other peoples’ profiles and they seem to have loads of experience and qualifications! What I would say is that it’s a case of making the most of what you have got in terms of qualifications and experience. As a student, recruiters will not expect you to have masses of experience on your profile at this stage but I think it’s good if you can demonstrate your versatility. Remember that it’s not just paid work that employers are interested in but also things like work experience, volunteering and extra curricular activities that can help to show you’re a well rounded person.

      A good place to start building up your profile is to write down all the things that you have done, including study, paid work, volunteering, work experience, extra curricular activities etc and then to think about what these say about you in terms of skills, knowledge and experience gained. Think about the area of work you want to get into and then consider the skills/qualities that employers in this area look for. It’s about showing an employer that you have all the skills they are looking for. If your experience is in an area that’s not directly relevant to what you hope to do, then focus on describing the transferable skills that you’ve gained rather than giving a technical description about what you’ve done, e.g. bar work is a great way of demonstrating that you can work in a team and under pressure, key skills required for many different areas of work.
      If you want to find out what employers in your chosen area look for, you could start this research by looking at the Graduate Prospects website – http://www.prospects.ac.uk. This site has a number of occupational profiles for many different graduate professions and tells you about entry requirements in terms of skills and personal qualities required.
      Other things that you could think about adding to your profile to enhance it include adding a Twitter account – you can use Twitter to find and follow professionals working in your area of interest. This in itself is a great way of keeping up with what’s going on. You can also add things like an Amazon reading list to let people know what professional reading you’re doing and you can also upload documents to let people know what you’re working on e.g. an extract of a dissertation.

      Another way to build your profile and presence on Linkedin is to start making connections with other users and joining some groups. Perhaps your uni has a group for students and alumni that you could join? This is a great way to start connecting with other people. If there’s no existing group, then how about setting one up? You could set up a group for students in your department so that you can share ideas or even a group for fellow students interested in your chosen career – a great way of demonstrating your interest to employers. Once you’ve joined a group you can also start contributing to discussions which could further enhance your presence. Also think about any existing contacts you have that you can connect with on Linkedin, e.g. family, friends and other students on your course.

      If you’re relatively new to Linkedin, there is a really good student and graduate guide which has more tips on how to build your profile, check out this link – http://learn.linkedin.com/students/step-1/

      Hope that’s useful and best wishes,
      Rebecca

  2. Farrisee James
    August 19, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    Thanks for the clear advice. So many of us are going straight to job boards without making the most of our contacts….

    • Rebecca Valentine
      August 20, 2010 at 9:16 am #

      Hi Farrisee,

      Thanks for reading the post and glad you liked the advice. I think it’s great if students and grads can make the most of their contacts when job seeking. As I said in my original post, we all have an existing network of contacts who can offer us useful insights and ideas to help with job search. I think the term “networking” is sometimes misunderstood as being about schmoozing for jobs and it’s not, it’s about sharing ideas and insights that can help to get people to where they want to be.

      Good luck with your jobsearch,
      Rebecca

  3. Darren Lehmann
    August 20, 2010 at 6:06 am #

    My uni career advisor said to me that she’s very cynical about online networking – twitter, LinkedIn, etc. She said that any relationship of worth is only made by face to face contact – what she called “old fashioned human intereaction”. What do you think?

    • rebeccavalentine
      August 20, 2010 at 10:35 am #

      Hi Darren,

      Good question and thanks for reading the blog.

      My take on it is that online networking is not a substitute for face to face networking but more a tool to complement it – I think you need to be willing and able to do the face to face bit in order for your networking to be really effective. I think that online networking is a good place to start off the networking process, e.g. putting together a Linkedin profile is a good way to organise your thoughts about your achievements so that you can talk about them confidently when it comes to a face to face meeting.
      Online networking via sites such as Linkedin and Twitter is also a means of having access to the thoughts and ideas of a wide range of people – established professionals, fellow students etc and also a way of hearing about new developments in your field of interest. Looking at group discussions on Linkedin and Twitter feeds is a good way of keeping up to date – this in itself could give you some useful material to use when having a face to face meeting. Online networking could also be a means of setting up a future face to face meeting with an employer or established professional.

      Hope that helps and best wishes,
      Rebecca

  4. August 21, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    The other value of LinkedIn – for students and others – is that it makes it so much easier to STAY in touch with your contacts, track what they’re doing, see what interests them, who they’re dealing with ….

    Job search is incredibly time-consuming. Having a tool like this for easily monitoring your contacts’ worlds is really helpful.

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