The unemployment rate is dropping through out the country. While there remain pockets of high unemployment good jobs are coming back slowly. With many organizations releasing reports of a promising employment outlook for 2014 networking is more important than ever. It is projected that 65% to 80% of all jobs are found through networking. There are many job hunters are content to complete online applications or send resume after resume without any response. No one will get to know who you really are from your resume among a pile of other resumes. Good networking gets the edge on a job search because the truth is people like do business primarily with people they know. Networks are not just for those looking for a job. Networking is for those who are working too and in today's economy who has any job security?
Networks have to be built and managed to be successful. The business definition of networking is creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Professional networking is about making contacts and building relationships.
When starting to network start with the question “how can I help” and not “What can I get?” Choosing a group or organization to grow your network becomes an important. What are your interests of area of expertise? Or what do you want to know more more about? Finding people who meet regularly to share common interests and who are willing to help each other unselfishly is the perfect network. There are many existing network opportunities such as alumni organizations, professional associations, community job clubs or volunteer associations to name a few.
While your computer can become your best friend to search networking opportunities do not rely on exclusively on your computer to do the work needed to build a network. Only you can build your network. So when considering an established network begin with an honest self assessment of where you want to go and what network has opportunities for you to contribute. This is where your computer can help research what is out there. Develop a strong online social media presence through sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook which can be a useful tools towards finding an existing network to join.
Once you find a group to network that is a good professional fit for you then make a plan. Find out when the group meets or gets together. Not only look to participate in the meetings but explore volunteer activities or sub committees within the group. Keep in mind your network can include friends, neighbors, references or former colleagues too. Chances are you already have an informal network already that is ready for you to grow by simply reconnecting with people you already know. Make a lunch plan or phone call to catch up. It is important to take a self check of your existing network and determine if your it is time well spent. If your network is made up of people you do not like or who have an agenda different than what you need professionally it would be best to re-evaluate and build a network that is for mutual benefit.
One of the biggest obstacles holding people back from building a network is being comfortable meeting new people. While the purpose of networking means meeting people and building relationships it does not come easy for some. But remember people participate in a network to meet other people just like yourself. So do your homework by having ready a 10 second elevator speech, plus a 60 second commercial speech and a 10 minute informational interview ready. Practice what you will say and when you meet a new contact show interest in what they say and actively listen.
As networking contacts increase keep track of who you meet. Remember your new contact's name and where appropriate follow up. Politely approach your contacts in the career track that appeals to you. Be authentic and considerate. Your contacts can provide you a wealth of career information. How did the contact get into their position? What are their daily challenges? What is the biggest changes in the profession, who is hiring in the industry and who is the hiring manager? Always thank your contact for the information they provide you. Your network contact information can give you a huge advantage.
When you discover career opportunities within your network ask your network contacts for advice and not for the job. It is best that you use your network contacts as allies for information and insight. Should a satisfying career emerge come from your network or outside of your network you still need your network. Your network is for mutual benefit-it is a two way street. Keep building it. Do not be surprised when your network contacts begins to ask you for advice or information. Part of a network is showing your commitment to helping others in your network and moves you to a place of someone knowledgeable.
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