Networking tips for job seekers in the digital age
Networking is essential for job seekers and, in the digital age, online networking has become increasingly important as it allows job seekers to connect with people from all over the world. Sheila Flavell, COO of FDM Group, offers tips for network effectively, both online and in person
Success in business is rarely achieved alone and is often the result of building relationships and establishing connections with others. This type of collaboration is essential for both cultivating new ideas and expanding professional opportunities.
Traditionally, these collaborations took place face-to-face, over a meal or in a conference room. With the advent of digital communications and the new world created by the COVID-19 pandemic, online networking has become the new normal.
Understanding the importance of networking can maximise opportunities for professional growth.
The benefits of networking for job seekers
Almost 80% of respondents in a LinkedIn global survey said that networking was important for career success. 61% also said that regular online interaction increases possibilities for new employment.
This is especially true for returners, those new to the workforce and those switching careers to new industries. Notably, 4.2% of women’s jobs globally were terminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic from 2019 to 2020, meaning millions of people are looking to return to the workforce. Remaining open to new connections and actively seeking them out can make a huge difference.
Another benefit of networking is to expand one’s skill set for future employment. Learning how to approach new people and build connections helps develop self-confidence in interpersonal skills, which benefits job seekers once they have secured a job placement as well. Expanding a network also means expanding access to the number of people with different skills from you. This leads to new pools of information and advice that can be tapped into when needed.
An important part of networking also includes offering support and advice to one’s network. This could besharing a virtual coffee with a graduate looking for advice or exchanging emails about interview tips you found useful with a returner. In exchange, you also have a support network to rely on in times of need.
Finally, networking goes hand-in-hand with establishing a personal brand. Using LinkedIn enhances personal brands, as 74% of people say that regular online interaction increases loyalty. A personal brand can also be grown through publications on industry-relevant platforms, which helps establish job seekers as thought leaders in their field. This increases one’s credibility when employers are able to see how well connected you are.
What to do while networking
Networking in any professional environment, whether in person or online, is a daunting task. Following specific guidelines can help job seekers feel more confident in growing their network and landing their dream job.
It is important to connect with like-minded people who share your passions and interests to learn about hidden opportunities or simply exchange industry tips and tricks. Coupling with societies, clubs and organisations in your field is also a great way of expanding the pool of potential connections. Additionally it is worth reaching out to those outside your field to expand into new territory and avoid limiting your professional success.
It is also essential to add value to your network. This can be done by starting and developing mutually beneficial relationships where you can give as much as you get. Posting on online forums and groups in your field positively adds to your network’s content and increases exposure to your personal brand.
Finally, it is important to be authentic when recommending and endorsing other connections in your field. This can be through letters of recommendations to employers or engagement on LinkedIn. Whatever the case, being open and truthful about others means they will do the same to you.
What not to do while networking
Be mindful of avoiding some common mistakes when you start networking, so that your efforts aren’t counter-productive.
Don’t ask for favours right off the bat. Approaching strangers and asking something of them makes it awkward for both parties, undermining your candidacy.
Hard pitching someone on the first connection is also a bad look. Networking takes time and is about establishing long-term connections, which can’t be rushed. Professionals have busy schedules and can take a while to get back to you. Allow the new connection a week before reaching out a second time.
Using desperate language when trying to ‘sell’ yourself is also a no-go. Again, networking is about long-term mutual benefits, so pitching yourself as someone in desperate need does not establish yourself as a confident, skilled candidate. Take the time to get to know your new connection so that they feel as though you care about them, and not just their job title.
Tips for in-person networking
There are several tips and tricks for networking in person. Read the room to determine the nature of the event you are attending and adjust your approach. For example, networking at a fundraiser might mean less CV-swapping than a career fair designed for graduates entering the workforce.
Try to speak with as many people as you can, and not spend the entire event with just one person. A good way to start is by approaching someone who is also by themselves. This is less intimidating and a good way to build up confidence. Preparing a few conversation starters can come in handy to break the ice with new faces. Background research on an event’s speakers is also a great way to start.
Finally, following up with in person connections online helps your new connections keep you in mind. Sharing industry-related content or shared personal interests are great ways to start.
Tips for online networking
The prevalence of online networking has only grown since the COVID-19 pandemic and is now a common practice around the world. Online platforms are key for professional development, as 61 million people use LinkedIn every week to search for jobs. Learn how to adapt to digital platforms to get the most out of their networking experiences.
Reaching out to old contacts is the first way to network online. Even if you have moved on to a new company, or even a different industry, staying connected to old co-workers online is a great way to learn about potential job openings and professional development opportunities. Establishing a friendly rapport with them before asking about job opportunities is key; so a quick LinkedIn message or a five-minute virtual coffee chat is a great way to re-connect without directly asking something of them. In fact, around 35% of professionals on LinkedIn found that a quick message eventually led to a new job!
Finally, networking through digital platforms such as webinars or Zoom/Teams meetings means less time for actual interaction and more pressure on you to establish connections quickly. Knowing your goals helps guide your conversations when in the webinar or call. Similarly, preparing a 30-second elevator pitch of yourself that hits all your key points is a great way to ensure you nail your first impressions. An anecdotal, interesting fact about yourself could help you stand out and make yourself memorable in the group you are networking with. Finally, it is key to ensure follow-up meetings with those you want to connect further with. Sending an email or a message after the event can help keep you fresh in others’ minds.
Networking, both in person and online, is key to professional success. Learning how to navigate the world of networking and adapting to digital platforms increases employment opportunities and enhances your career development.
Sheila Flavell, pictured below, is COO of FDM Group