In today’s competitive job market, those who know what you know can help you generate a competitive advantage. Most executive jobs are filled through recommendations and referrals. But if you’re like most job seekers, you are usually too busy getting things done to spend time cultivating new connections and maintaining your professional network.
When the time comes to look for a new career challenge, chances are you understand the importance of contacts, but you don’t have a network of insider contacts to support your search. By strategically focusing on connections that help access leads, you can network purposefully and make faster progress toward a great offer. Here’s how to jump-start your campaign and build your network starting now.
- Increasing your visibility to hiring authorities will attract employers to you. You can orchestrate a place for yourself on decision makers’ radar screens by impressing them with your initiative, achievements and extraordinary ability to deliver results. If you want employers to find you, first they need to know what you can do for their bottom line. One of the best ways to display your talents is to be involved in producing, not just attending, industry events. Volunteer to chair a section or organize a dinner. You can do this online by participating in forums and Twitter discussions where your contributions are evidence of your expertise and knowledge. Get more mileage out of your publications and presentations by sharing citations and handouts with your connections. Don’t be afraid to give an interview to a magazine or blog (or seek out one).
- Reaching out to industry leaders purposefully expands your network. By initiating contact and introducing yourself to authors, speakers, bloggers, academics and other key leaders in your field, your circle begins to grow. Then stay in touch via exchanges where you provide help as well as seek assistance. Look for opportunities to meet others in your field, such as sending them a compliment, asking for their advice or sharing information and encouraging a conversation on a topic of mutual interest. Networking is not a transaction-oriented process but a series of mutually gratifying relationships that grow over time through shared experiences and common interests. Continually nourish, update and maintain your connections whether you are looking for a new job or remain happy in your current one. Introduce your contacts who don’t already know each other – be the network’s spark.
Much of the hiring process is governed by referral relationships. Your network can plug you into unadvertised positions and deliver a competitive advantage. By keeping your contacts fresh and maintaining good relationships, it is more likely that new opportunities will find you even when you are not actively seeking a new challenge.
If you decide to launch a new job search, your network can produce the advice and leads you need to access a new challenge. Similarly, you can return the favor by providing assistance and offering recommendations to those you know. When everyone is contributing, everyone benefits. Be a proactive connector who networks, keeps contacts and is sought out by others for inside information about new job leads.