Career Advice: How to Network

10 steps to solve the mystery of career networking

If you talk to anyone in Career Development, you will probably hear about the importance of networking. They will tell you that you looking for jobs online may not be enough. To really increase your chances of getting a job you want, it’s important to know how to network.

But what exactly does networking mean? Networking is a buzz word for developing relationships with people in your career field. This guide is intended to give you practical advice on how to develop your network and make the most of your opportunities.

Step 1. Think about people you already know.
The easiest way to start networking is to start with people you already know. Write a list of people who may be potentially helpful or supportive of you as you start your new career. This list might include family members, friends, former co-workers, teachers, or Career Development staff from your college or training school. You might even know some people from the community that you see on a regular basis, like your dental hygienist, hair stylist, family doctor, pharmacist, librarian, or your children’s teachers. All of these people could possibly be in your network.

Step 2. Be clear about what you want.
Before reaching out to people in your network, do some thinking about what you want. Identify some companies or organizations where you are hoping to work. Think about where you would like to be working in five to ten years, and what kind of position you would need in order to reach your goal. Then look at your list of contacts, and start out slowly. Start with a friend. Tell them that you are trying to develop your network and you need to practice. Then after talking with a friend, begin to contact others on your list. Here are some things you can discuss:

  • Talk about your career goals
  • Explain what kind of position you are looking for
  • Ask how they got started in their own career
  • Ask if they know anyone in your field
  • Ask if they have any advice for you
  • Ask them what steps they took to develop their own career network

Step 3. Use your school’s Career Development Department.
Most career training schools, community colleges, and private universities have career development professionals on staff to help students get started in their career paths. Take advantage of this resource! Even if you have already graduated from school, it is possible that your school will offer career resources for alumni. It never hurts to call and ask. You may be able to find alumni events happening in your region, or perhaps a Career Services Advisor could connect you with an alumna who would be willing to give you an informational interview. Remember, schools want their graduates to find jobs! They are there to help you.

Step 4. Get involved in your community.
The more people you know, the wider your career network grows. If you are out of work and have extra time on your hands, what better time to sign up for a volunteer activity? Volunteering can introduce you to new people, give you new skills, and help fill in a gap of unemployment on your resume. When you volunteer, follow a few pointers:

  • Try to find a volunteer position that is related to the career field you want to pursue.
  • Treat your volunteer position seriously, like a job. Show up on time and do what you have promised to do.
  • Be outgoing when volunteering. Try to meet others and talk about your situation. You never know who may be willing to give you a helping hand.

Step 5. Schedule informational interviews.
Sometimes, even if there is no job opening available, a professional will agree to meet you for an informational interview. This should be someone in your field whom you think could provide good advice on getting your foot in the door. Or, if they don’t have time for an interview, you might just be able to e-mail the person and have a brief email discussion on ways you can get started in the field. Most people are flattered and happy to share advice when someone asks politely.

Step 6. Keep up your online profiles.
LinkedIn and other professional networking resources are a great way to make contacts and keep in touch with others in your field. Stay active on LinkedIn. Accept connections. Make connections. Offer endorsements and recommendations. Post articles. Join groups that are related to your career field. There are all sorts of ways to use LinkedIn to build your network. For advice on creating your profile, read 6 Steps to an All-Star LinkedIn Profile.

Step 7. Look into professional organizations.
Depending on your career field, there may be a professional organization that you can join. They might offer continuing ed classes, conventions, or publications that can help increase your knowledge of your field.

Step 8. Find a support group for job seekers.
Look around in your community for help. Sometimes community organizations, churches, or social services agencies may have programs for job seekers. See if they have resources that may be useful for you.

Step 9. Look for job fairs.
Job fairs can be large events that may sometimes feel impersonal, but even so, they are a good opportunity to present yourself to a potential employer. Set a goal that you will personally talk to at least four representatives. Try to make eye contact, shake hands, and hold a brief conversation with them. Ask them what jobs they are hiring for, and tell them your brief “elevator pitch” about what you could bring to their organization.

Step 10. Come out of your shell.
You will be surprised at how many people want to help you if you come out of your shell and ask. Be confident in your skills and communicate clearly about what you are looking for. If you ask others for help, most people will be happy to give it.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to give back!
Once you’ve started down your career path, don’t forget your early days! If others ever come to you for advice, be as generous and helpful as you can! And throughout your career, you should continue nurturing your career network, keeping in touch with your connections, and lending a hand when someone needs it. This is what makes networks work!

This article was provided by the American College for Medical Careers. Our programs include Medical Assistant, Medical Billing and Coding, Diagnostic Medical Sonography and more. Learn more about our career training programs by contacting us online. We would love for you to start your new career field with us!