Professional Networking – part one

  1. Networking

So, firstly, what is networking why even bother with networking? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, networking is:

“A group of people who exchange information and contacts for professional or social purposes:a support network”.

Why do it – networking is key to success during a job search process here in Switzerland! It is said that over 80% of the jobs secured tend to be a result of networking, as opposed to directly responding to a job opening. So, to maximise your job search, it is very important to build a strong and varied network.

 

Networking-Image

Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Networking is also a very effective way of overcoming the challenges when transferring into new roles/career, or if you have had a career break; where you may have the skills and capability but not the ‘x number of years of specific experience’ in that field. On a CV/application, that can be harder to communicate. When one is ‘face to face’, connections are made and it is the personality, attitude and skills that become more important.

The beauty here is that the networking does not have to be always around a career theme. It is often through discussions at social events and interests, which lead to contacts being made professionally. If you are not currently working, networking is a great way to be actively meeting people, be out of the house and not sat at a laptop for the day; which can be lonely and de-motivating after a time. Equally, if you are currently working but looking for a new role; networking can help you explore new ideas, be energised by others you meet who are passionate about their career;and so feed your desireto make the leap of faith and create change!

That explains the why! So, now the “how”.

Firstly, what’s your perspective on networking? Many people reject it straight away: “I don’t like it, I hate selling myself, I wouldn’t know what to say, I am too shy” are just a few examples. If this sounds like you, consider some new perspectives: i.e. networking is … ‘building relationships/having fun/being curious/finding out 5 new things about someone else/stepping into the role of a journalist/being a researcher’. If you go to any event with a positive mind-set and a curiosity, you will have a positive outcome.

To make it easier for yourself, it is important to be able to introduce yourself so you need to create an introduction/’elevator speech’. When you are able to express what you are looking for, someone in the event may be able to help you with your research; be it by providing a name or an organisation/group that may align with your professional goals and aspirations.

  • “Hi, I am ‘Deborah’ and I am at an exciting point of career transition, where I am looking for roles where I can combine my ‘x, y, z’ skills with ‘a, b, c’ passions/interests/expertise”. Using this open-introduction creates more possibilities than simply telling the person your last job title, which they may or may not understand!
  • Once you have created this speech, practice it in front of the mirror and/or with friends, so that you are very comfortable and relaxed. You will find that you ‘fine tune’ your introduction each time you say it out-loud until it feels more natural.

You then have 2 choices. You can identify interesting groups where the subject matter is a common point of conversation (see below links for ideas), as it takes away any pressure and gives you a great opportunity to practice your speech and socialise. Equally, you can jump straight in and attend professional networking events.

Know-It-All Passport lists many events which cover social and professional events so you have a great resource here too.

In the meantime, remember that networking is a powerful way of leveraging your professional and personal contacts while searching for employment. At the same time, it is a two-way conversation, based on sharing information, as per the definition above “an exchange”.

As Scott Ginsbert said:“Networking isn’t selling, marketing, or cold calling. It’s the development and maintenance of mutually valuable relationships. Don’t mix these things up.”

In the December blog in preparation for a potential peak of social Christmas events, Deborah will post Part 2 of ‘Professional Networking’ which will provide tips on how to maximise networking events and present your best, most confident self!

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