In today’s increasingly connected world, understanding how to network effectively is becoming more essential in landing a dream job. Most job vacancies are never advertised. Instead, they are filled quietly through professional networks with word-of-mouth candidates. Frequently, people avoid actively networking because they think it comes off as self-serving or inauthentic. At its heart, though, networking is more about building and maintaining quality relationships than about making oneself look good.
If you are ready to get serious about networking, you need to make lists of the various networks to which you already belong. These networks include family members, friends, former and current coworkers, as well as school connections. If you volunteer, then you have a network with your nonprofit, just as those who play team sports or practice yoga develop networks through these activities. Importantly, each of these networks is connected to a number of other networks, thus giving you access to an extended number of people.
Of course, networks are only advantageous if you actively use them. If you are looking for work, let the people in your professional network know that you are seeking new job opportunities. While you might feel embarrassed to admit that you are unemployed or unhappily employed, most people will readily sympathize and happily assist you, if possible. When you do reach out though, be sure to have a clear idea of what type of job you want. This way, your contacts can relay an accurate message to their own networks.
The best place to start networking is with the individuals you use as references. Typically, you already have great relationships with your references, and these people can connect you to new networks and opportunities. Remember to follow up on new connections and with the people who suggested the connection to nurture both the budding and the existing relationships.
You should think of networking as a two-way street and look for ways to reciprocate any favors done for you. This sort of reciprocity reinforces the relationship and maintains it for the long run. Networking does not end when you find a job. Rather, networking is a continuous process that creates an important professional safety net.