What is networking?
When it comes to job searching, the term networking is used specifically to refer to sharing career-related information, such as insight into a particular field or available job opportunities. There are several different opportunities to network, including:
- Approaching company representatives at networking fairs/events.
- Speaking to family, friends and acquaintances about your job search and career goals.
- Connecting with companies and industry professionals on social media platforms like LinkedIn.
- Conducting information interviews with people in a career of interest.
- Staying in touch with colleagues from previous jobs.
- Speaking with people you meet at industry specific conferences.
Try not to think of networking as something that is only done at certain times. Networking can happen anytime you connect with somebody, regardless of the context. While networking events and career fairs are a great way to meet people from many different companies who are directly involved in and very knowledgeable of recruiting processes, it is not the only way to make those connections.
Why should I network?
- Gain industry insights: As a student, speaking to people who work in a particular career or industry can provide valuable information about how to start your career.
- Tap into the “hidden job market”: Contrary to popular belief, many jobs are not posted online. In fact, 70-80 percent of jobs are never posted to the general public. How do employers fill these jobs? Largely through referrals. Talking to people about your job search can be more important than looking at online postings.
- Figure out if a particular career/industry is a good fit for you: Especially if you have limited experience in a particular field or industry, speaking with somebody who has direct experience in the field may help you to make a more informed decision about pursuing a career in a particular industry.
- Create and maintain a professional image: By expressing a strong interest and having knowledgeable conversations with industry professionals, you will project an image of a professional rather than an inexperienced student.
- DO put yourself out there: Do not be afraid to speak to people around you about your job search – whether it is someone you meet at a networking event or someone you see on your commute to school every week. You never know who might have useful information for you about your career aspirations.
- DO be confident: Take some time to think about who you are, what you are looking for and what you have to offer. Speaking about yourself and your job search confidently will lead to gaining more specific information and in some cases, more referrals. Confidence will also make for a more engaging and meaningful conversation.
- DO use networking business cards: Make sure to have them handy as they are a great way to exchange details, particularly in less formal settings where giving somebody a resume may seem too pushy.
- DO listen and learn: While not everyone you meet will provide you with a direct lead to a job, many will provide you with useful information. Take time to learn from others’ experiences.
- DO give more and take less: You cannot expect to get something without offering anything in return. Return the favour if you can by offering any information that may be useful to them. If you find some useful information down the road, send it their way. Networking doesn’t stop after your first encounter and helping others means they are more likely to think positively of you when an opportunity arises.
- DO take time to nurture the relationship: Networking is developing strong, long-lasting business relationships. Don’t expect to reap the rewards immediately. Developing relationships over time will ensure that your connections in the industry are stronger and not just “one-off” meetings.
- DO take time to prepare: If you are going to a networking event or know you will be speaking to somebody about your career in advance, take some time to prepare. Do some additional research. Think about what you would like to ask them and what you would like to learn from them.
- DON'T be timid: Do not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Speak to new people about your job search, and ask for referrals from people you know. If you only speak to the people closest to you, you could miss out on helpful information and job leads.
- DON'T be afraid to ask questions: Asking well-thought-out questions can show that you have done some research into the type of position or company and set you apart from other people. Plus, most people are very happy to share their knowledge about a career or industry, particularly with students.
- DON'T be aggressive with self-promotion: This tactic is more likely to irritate than build valuable relationships.
- DON'T forget to follow up: Send a thank-you letter to anyone you meet who has helped you with your job search. What is the point of meeting someone if you do not follow up after? If you find information that might be interesting to them down the road, send it their way. The importance of a follow up is to gain additional knowledge and strengthen valuable relationships.
Additional networking resources
More networking tips – See our top strategies for networking and our SMILE & ASK method.