How Can Networking Benefit Your Career Development?
Photo credit: Ashraful Kadir (creative commons Attribution 2.0 license)
Whether you are a newcomer to Canada seeking employment, a recent graduate, a job hunter, or you are someone trying to build your professional connections, networking with the right people can prove to be a difficult task. In addition, breaking into the job market comes with some common challenges such as adapting to a new environment, finding a job in your profession, acquiring Canadian experience, or building relationships with people in your profession.
Apart from sending your resumes to numerous employers, how do you make the right connections with people inside your industry? Many people turn to networking as one way to forge new relationships in the hopes of gaining job leads or referrals. However, when networking fails to land you that job offer, you walk away feeling as though it was a wasted effort. However, it can play an important role in your career development if done properly. And there lies the problem with most people. They don't know how to network.
In a recent Globe and Mail article, Suzanne Bowness wrote about some of the key points to networking properly. It is one way to widen and broaden your contact base not only in number but in depth. "Randall Craid, president of social media strategy firm 108 Ideaspace Inc, calls it 'fishing where the fish are.' Being purposeful starts even before you enter the room, by choosing the right room to enter." In other words, attend events, conferences, meetings, social media forums, etc., that can benefit you by connecting you with the appropriate people in your industry, profession or area of interest.
Here are a few points you can implement at your next networking event:
- Networking is ongoing. It is something that should be ongoing throughout your career. It is about how you dress, who you speak to, how you speak and what you talk about, as well as, how you conduct yourself in public that counts because you never know where it might lead you. Also, begin networking early before you have the need to do it. This will give you the opportunity to build your network of people just in case the need arises for when you do need a job.
- More is not better. Seek out relationships that can benefit your career. They can be a mentor, a colleague, a client or someone who has assisted you with making an important connection. Networking with as many people as possible may not necessarily be advantageous to you. Focus on building quality relationships with key people who can, and who have made a difference in your professional career, or people you believe are moving up in their career. Once you have established this list of people, make sure you keep in regular contact with them.
- Have a plan. Do some research before attending an event to find out who some of the key people are. You can ask a mutal contact to introduce you to people who you want to get to know and connect with. Know beforehand what you would like to discuss or talk about. Find common interests, respectively listen to someone and ask open-ended questions. Allow the individual to elaborate on a question you just asked rather than with a yes or no answer. Find value in everyone you network with. Never assume that someone is unimportant based on their job title because they may be able to help you in some small way.
- Attend events. Create situations where you can network with key people by getting out and meeting them. Consider joining professional organizations, attending events, seminars, conferences, meetings, volunteering, clubs, etc. By going outside your comfort zone to find new opportunities, you can develop a network of key contacts.
- Help others. Consider doing something for someone instead of someone doing something for you. Networking is more than just about making the right connections for yourself. It is also about helping others by donating your time and talent or connecting people you feel have some beneficial value to each other.
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