You’ve probably heard that networking is important if you want to get into the right job. You are probably even aware that it’s important to connect with the right people. Both are true. Networking is important whether you want to get a promotion, change career paths, or get a job after recently graduating.
Who Knows You
Are you familiar with the adage, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know”? While it may seem a cliché, this phrase is particularly true when it comes to landing yourself the right job. Some people will even tell you stories of instances when they were the more qualified candidate for a job, but the boss overlooked them in favor of a lesser qualified who they already knew.
The bottom line is that bosses, managers, and anyone in a hiring position is investing a lot of time, money, and trust in any new job applicant they hire, and they are more likely to be confident in a person whose character they already trust.
So how do you become that person? There is a good chance you are already that person to somebody. Think of everyone you know, every friend, every neighbor, and every family member who is a working professional. Many of them already trust you and would be comfortable making a recommendation to a boss to hire you. All you have to do is start reaching out to those people you know and asking questions, even asking them to put in a good word for you.
Who You Know
In your search for professional connections, it’s also important to keep in mind your networking goals with the right people. You shouldn’t necessarily rule out every source, because you never know where a great reference will come from, but you should prioritize who to contact first.
Look for connections in the field where you would like to make your career. If you know any “higher-ups,” people with hiring power, then you should focus on those people. Then, consider the people who may not be in leadership positions, but who work in some capacity for companies in your desired industry.
Who to Contact
Networking can seem daunting if you’re just at the start, but it gets easier. Here are some of the “right” people to contact:
Anyone you have worked with on a particular project
Professors who taught one of your classes and remember you
Classmates who studied for the same degree and would remember you from class or who worked with you on assignments
You should notice that it’s important to make a positive impression on everybody you have ever worked with, especially in your desired field. These types of connections will have first-hand knowledge of your work ethic, your knowledge, your ambition, your reliability, your personality, your character, and your career goals. Most of them will either know someone in your preferred field or work in that industry themselves. They are the perfect ones to ask about job openings, qualifications, and personal references to get your foot in the door. Professional references are also a great resume builder.
How to Begin
In order to be successful with networking and get job references, you will need to step out of your comfort zone. If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak to a connection in person, then don’t let it pass you by. Approach them confidently and tactfully, be polite, and inquire after their work. They will usually return the favor, at which point you can explain what career path you are pursuing and ask them if they can refer you. Exchange emails or phone numbers to keep the correspondence going.
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