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How to Build your Career Network

Networking is an essential part of searching for a job

If you are searching for a job, you are probably spending a lot of time on online job sites. Online job search engines can be useful, but most career experts believe that career networking is a better way to find job leads.

What is career networking? It’s simply developing a network of fellow colleagues, co-workers, and mentors who are in your career field. The more connected you are, the more likely you are to hear about job opportunities and other developments in your field. Here’s how to get started!

Step 1: Who do you already know?
Your career network can begin with the people you already know. Write a list of the people in your life. They may be family members, friends, classmates, former co-workers, and teachers. You might even include people that you know as acquaintances, such as your family doctor, your dentist, friends from the gym, or people you know from your religious affiliation. Once you have this list, set a goal of talking to at least 2 of these people per week about your career goals. You never know…they may have useful suggestions for you or may be able to connect you with the right people.

Step 2:  Stop in your Career Services department
If you attend college or career training school, you should make an appointment with your Career Services advisors. They may have active job leads or helpful advice on career networking. They might know of networking events, such as alumni events or career-specific job fairs. They might have suggestions on someone to contact. Make sure you stop in frequently in case new job leads become available.

Step 3. Request informational interviews
Once you have gotten connected with a few people working in your field, the next step is to ask for an informational interview. An informational interview gives you the chance to talk to a practicing professional about how they got into the field. You can also ask for their advice on how you can get started in this field. These interviews will not result in a job offer, but they can help you learn more about the types of positions that could be available. Be sure to bring a list of informational interview questions with you, since you will be the one asking the questions. If the person is too busy to meet with you, it’s possible they will answer a few questions informally over email.

Step 4. Volunteer in your new career field
It can be hard to find time to volunteer, but if your schedule allows, why not give it a try? Volunteering within your career field can help introduce you to new people. It also looks good on your resume. And most importantly, it feels great to give back to your community. Treating your volunteer job seriously can help establish your reputation as a reliable professional.

Step 5. Use LinkedIn regularly
Many people like to network using the various social media outlets that are available. Facebook and Instagram tend to be more personal networks, while LinkedIn is the main place where people network for business reasons. LinkedIn allows you to join groups related to your career field and find interesting articles about the state of your industry. Be sure to create a strong LinkedIn profile, and use LinkedIn’s features regularly.

Step 6. Join a professional organization
Many career fields have professional organizations that promote awareness and advancement of the field. They hold conferences and offer research and publications to keep you informed of the latest in your field. If you join a professional organization, you will have access to these resources and may have the opportunity to meet others in your field.

Step 7. Attend job fairs
Some job fairs can be large and impersonal events where it’s hard to get a chance to talk to anyone. Instead, look for industry-specific job fairs. These tend to be smaller and more targeted to the type of job you are seeking. Use the job fair as a place to practice your networking skills. Set a goal to talk with at least 5 representatives. This can help you get comfortable talking with employers about your job skills.

Step 8. Don’t be shy
Don’t be shy or embarrassed about the fact that you are looking for a job. Be specific about what you are looking for, so that others have a clear idea of how they might help. You will be surprised at how many people want to help if you are brave enough to ask!

Bonus tip: Don’t forget to give back
Career networks work best if everyone is giving and receiving. For all the advice you seek, be sure you are giving back too. Help connect your contacts with other people and pass along job leads that someone else may be interested in. Or just check in every now and then with a quick “hello” to let your contacts know that you are still thinking of them.

Remember, your career network is something that can grow with you as you pursue your career. It’s worth the effort to keep up your network throughout your entire career. Staying in touch with others in your career field is a great way to stay in tune with new developments and new opportunities.

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This article is provided by the Branford Hall Career Institute. We offer career focused training for medical assistants, medical billing and coding, computer networking and security, and more. Contact us online to find out more.

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