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If you’ve been searching for a job for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard how important it is to network to help advance your career. According to LinkedIn, 80% of professionals consider networking vital to career success. But what exactly is networking, and how do you do it successfully? Read on to learn everything you need to know on how to network well, including how to start, good examples of how to network properly, the benefits of networking, and mistakes to avoid. 

What is networking?

Networking is typically used by professionals to widen their circles of acquaintances, especially in a particular field of interest through an informal social setting. The purpose of networking is to find out about job opportunities within the industry and increase awareness of growing trends within a common field.  

Professional networking platforms, like LinkedIn, provide a place where people can connect with other professionals and join groups, follow companies, and stay up to date with information on a professional level. 

How can networking help you find a job?

Networking is an important step in finding a job because of human nature – people are more apt to interview and hire someone that they know and like. Resumes and cover letters are not nuanced enough to give someone the whole picture of you, and job listings draw many applicants, making it harder to stand out from the crowd and putting you in intense competition with other job seekers. You never know when one of your professional contacts will lead to a great career. 

How do you start networking?

The idea of networking can be daunting, especially if you are a more introverted person. Follow these tips for some ideas on how to start networking to find a job: 

Just start

Most people are too intimidated or shy to approach or reach out to someone influential, but it’s important to take that step. Be polite and direct, and you’ll find that most people will be open to the networking connection. Remember that the first move should always be yours, or else you’ll never make progress. 

Start with relationships

Remember that the goal of networking is to make connections, not to immediately get a new job. It’s a slow and steady process! Build on the relationship first, before you ask about job openings. A great tactic to utilize is informational interviews, which can help to establish a connection, create a conversation, and build a rapport with professionals in your desired field.  

Follow up

To keep the relationship going, you’ll need to continue to follow up. This could be in the form of a follow-up email after an informational interview or sharing an insightful article. There are lots of ways to follow up without asking for a job, so be creative! The idea is to be top of mind, so you’ll be the first person they think of when a job is available that you’d be the perfect fit.

What are good examples of networking?

When it comes to networking, the best way to is to be easy to help: 

Be specific

If someone asks how they can help you professionally, give them something specific and simple that they can help you with. Instead of saying, “I’m looking for a job,” be specific with your request. Tell them what companies you are interested in working with and ask them if they know of anyone at those companies. This can lead to a dialogue about whom they know at the following companies and if they can connect you, or if they don’t have a connection, put different companies on your radar that would also be a great fit. 

Be available and responsive

When it comes to setting up a time and place to talk, take charge of the meeting and propose a date, time, and location to help take the burden of the meeting logistics off the professional contact. On the other hand, if someone gives you dates and times, make your schedule work around them. If you absolutely cannot meet, propose alternatives, and don’t just say that the date or time doesn’t work.  

What are the biggest mistakes a job seeker can make with networking?

If you’re wanting to build an authentic networking connection, avoid the following: 

Make it all about you

Networking should be like any other conversation – a two-way dialogue. Don’t be so worried about your own self-promotion that you neglect the other person entirely. Remember to develop a genuine interest in the other person by getting to know them, asking questions about them, etc. Don’t dominate or continually center the conversation. When you show interest in others, you become more interesting yourself! 

Asking too much too soon

Most people don’t start networking until they need a job, and then immediately start asking for introductions and referrals, which can be a big  turn-off. Suddenly launching into asking for favors from your network connections can come across as greedy and presumptuous. Try to adopt a  give-first mentality – ask how you can help your connections meet their own goals and provide any support that you can. Remember that proper networking takes time, so start networking now, before you need to leverage your connections.  

Failing to follow up

Just like in Sales, a sale doesn’t typically happen at the first meeting, it happens after you’ve built the initial connection and followed up. The same is true in networking – it's about the relationships that you build over time. After you’ve made a new connection, reach out to that person in a day or two to continue the conversation, and watch your network relationship blossom. 

Other job search resources

Networking doesn’t have to be challenging or only for those who are extroverted. Building professional relationships is very important to succeeding in the workplace and when searching for a new career. Learning about effective networking strategies and techniques can help you make professional contacts that can help you advance your career. 

Orion Talent offers a comprehensive transition resource library to help you make the bridge from your military life to civilian employment. We offer step-by-step guidance and instructions on every aspect of the process, from planning for your transition, resume writing, interview prep, and beyond.  

If you’re ready to begin your search for a new career, register on our site today to get started

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