As holiday celebrations and events begin, we want to remind you what fantastic ways these activities can be building your network. Whether you’re looking to get back to work sooner or later, start thinking about your network now to help make
your career transition infinitely easier and more efficient. And as we wrap up 2021, take a moment to celebrate all you’ve accomplished. Big wins or small, we all deserve a pat on the back for successfully navigating
another pandemic year.
Networking is really about cultivating relationships with a few well connected people in your community, personal and professional, who understand your goals and can introduce you to a few more well-connected people that align with what you’re looking to achieve.
In Part 1 of this series, we review the 5 types of contacts. In Part 2, we’re walking you through four simple steps to jumpstart your relationship building.
Step 1: Start Telling People. This very essential tip can be the hardest part of networking. Start telling people what you are looking to do. It could be as simple as “I’m looking to get back to work and interested in learning more about (insert role type/industry). If you know of someone you think could answer some of my questions I would love an intro.”
Doing this can make people, especially folks who have been away from paid work, feel vulnerable and exposed, but the reality is it’s perfectly acceptable small talk. So instead of answering the “What are you up to these days” question with a brush off response or deflecting to something about your kids, take the time and opportunity to answer thoughtfully about your next steps, even if you’re not entirely sure what those steps will be. Practice a variation of this response so you feel more confident talking about yourself. Be prepared for follow up questions about what you’re good at and your skills and past experience. You‘re making people aware of what you’re doing and this can progress your networking in a strategic way.
Pro tip: If you’re not on LinkedIn or your profile is out of date, now is the time to get that refreshed. Many times if someone introduces you to someone in their network they’ll include your LinkedIn profile as an easy way to forge that connection. We’ve got great LinkedIn guidance from experts we’ve interviewed, and you can view those here and here. We also cover this platform in depth in our book Back to Business.
Step 2: Proactive Research. Many times we meet parents at sporting events or acquaintances at church, and don’t have a clue what they do for a living. It may seem strange at first to look them up on LinkedIn to get an idea of the industries or roles they’re in. However, you never know when they could possibly be able to give you sound advice or insight for opportunities you may be interested in. Plus, it’s a lot easier to have these conversations in settings that are comfortable and allow for authentic conversations.
As you consider your next moves, also research companies you admire. Look at multiple job descriptions to see what people are hiring for, who are the industry experts, and what’s happening or shifting in the market.
During all this research you are going to come up with a lot of questions. Write them down! Some you’ll be easily able to answer yourself with quick reading. Those more in-depth questions will be the perfect thing to ask your network. They’re great icebreakers and can easily be asked even in passing. “Oh Jennie, I think you’re in tech marketing, right? I’m looking to get back to work and researching those roles, it’s what aligns with my most recent work experience. I would love to know what industry associations you find the most helpful as I’m thinking of joining one.” Not only do these questions help inform your job search, but they are also spreading the word that you’re looking.
Step 3: Seek Advice (AIR Method). When asking questions about current and new network connections, you want to keep it simple. We have found thinking about it using the AIR method, Advice, Insights, and Recommendations, is a great way to stay concise and on point.
Advice: When you’re talking with connections, you want to make the most of their time, especially when they may not have a ton of time to offer. To help, be clear about what you want to learn from this individual. It gives people an easy to understand idea of what they can offer you. A great example might be “How did you get into your current role?”
Insights: Asking open ended questions is necessary. It helps people feel good about the conversation and most importantly that they are providing value. It’s easy to get nervous and do a lot of the talking. We strongly encourage you to practice beforehand so you feel comfortable succinctly answering questions and giving key info, then focus on listening to the other person’s response. A great inquiry might sound like this: “What characteristics are you seeing in current candidates?”
Recommendations: Be sure to ask for a recommendation or next steps from them if possible. Examples could include, What events should you be attending to learn more? Who should you follow on LinkedIn? What local experts would be good to connect with? Who else should you be reaching out to? These asks can make a lasting impact with that connection. It also provides a reason to follow up with that connection to say thank you and share how their advice helped you.
Step 4: Connect. Now it’s time to take all those intro’s, advice, and ideas and start connecting with people! Be sure to have an updated LinkedIn profile. It’s the easiest way to connect with others in a short amount of time. Every time you meet someone in person, follow up on LinkedIn with a connection request. You may even find them on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you’re already active on any of these platforms it’s worth your while to see if they have public profiles to follow and engage with. The more you learn about them the easier it is to connect on shared interests.
If expanding your network is a major goal and you’re putting a lot of effort into it, you’re meeting a lot of new faces. Consider writing it all down or creating a follow up process. Include their name, role/industry, how you met, commonalities (including people), recommendations they gave you, if you connected online, and perhaps something you want to follow up with them on. It’s easy to lose track but being strategic with this information creates an organized and efficient process.
Networking doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating, and most often your current network is the best place to start. You may have already provided value to them in ways you hadn’t realized...even if it’s not on a professional level, ie. volunteer roles, room parent, sports coach, etc. Now it’s up to you to make sure they’re armed with your professional goals and what you’re hoping to achieve. They want to help so make it as easy for them to do so as possible.
We also want to make it easier for you! Join our upcoming Back to Business Accountability Program launching Tues Jan 25th. It’s your chance to focus on your career next steps, network with an inviting community, and learn key elements of the modern job search game. Spots fill up fast so be sure to register today.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this networking series where we’ll talk more about how acquaintances can actually be more helpful in your job search journey than your closest connections.
In the meantime put on that festive hat, pick up some treats, and say yes to that next party invite!