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How to Use Networking to Expand Professional Opportunities
The old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” is both right and wrong.
Networking is often associated with schmoozing – this isn’t totally inaccurate, but this perception doesn’t capture the value of networking for expanding your professional opportunities.
Of course, you need demonstrated skills and abilities to land a new job. Sometimes, though, skills only help after you’ve got a foot in the door.
This is where networking can help. According to a recent survey from Clutch, 25% of recent hires landed their current job through networking – the second most common method of finding a job after using a job board.
The main advantages of networking that help you move forward professionally include:
- Building a reputation
- Showcasing your strengths
- Making people aware of your ideal employer
- Understanding a company’s culture
Build Your Reputation Through Making Connections and Helping Others
It is important to build and maintain a good reputation to achieve success. You don’t want to be the “best kept secret” in your company or industry.
Rather, you want to be known as someone with the experience and expertise who can make a difference at a company.
One way to do that is to use networking opportunities to make others aware of your accomplishments and strengths.
Networking allows you to discuss your skills and successes. Regular presence at networking events helps you get recognized as someone who is knowledgeable, reliable, and supportive.
One way to effectively showcase your knowledge, skills, and abilities is to help others with their business challenges. Networking isn’t all glad-handing. Use networking opportunities to discuss industry challenges and possible solutions with your peers.
People want a colleague who is willing to brainstorm ideas and solutions to business problems. Demonstrating your value as a helpful resource can expand your network of contacts and make you stand out in a candidate pool.
Emphasize Your Strengths
Put your strengths on full display at networking events. This gives people a good idea of the value you can bring to a company.
Your strengths are your “go-to” skills, or abilities that you can demonstrate at a high level of consistency and expertise.
Use your networking opportunities to discuss your strongest skills to gauge if those skills can be useful to someone’s organization. Roles that play to your strengths result in the optimal professional experience.
The clearer your value is to a potentially employer, the easier it is for them to identify a role where your strengths can be beneficial.
Announce Your Intentions
People change jobs for a number of reasons: new career path, better schedule, more flexibility, or better pay.
No matter your reasoning, networking can help you find your next opportunity and discuss future career opportunities and ambitions with your industry peers.
By making your ideal working scenario known, you make it easier for companies to offer opportunities that match your wants and needs.
In addition, networking gives you the opportunity to learn more about employment opportunities. For example, if you’re interested in pursuing something in social media, look for people who work in that space and be prepared with pointed questions and discussion topics.
It’s important to be intentional in your discussions: make sure that your conversation is focused and to the point. For example, ask questions about how your background can be applied to a particular business process, rather than to a company in general.
The more detailed you are in the questions and conversations you have, the better you can identify professional opportunities that best apply to your skills and career aspirations.
Gather Insight About a Company’s Culture
People are generally willing to share details about where they work. Networking provides you with valuable information that can determine if you are a good fit with an organization.
Starting a job at a new company is a big leap of faith, and far too many people learn about the underbelly of a business after they start a position, rather than during their candidacy.
Use networking opportunities to discuss the pros and cons of a workplace to help determine whether an organization is right for you.
Even if you discuss a company with someone who doesn’t work there, if they are in the same industry, they may be able to give valuable third-party perspective about working for a particular firm.
In addition, it’s a good idea to reference online resources to learn about a company’s culture and methods of operation. These include:
- Online recruiting platforms: Sites such as Glassdoor or LinkedIn provide insight into a company’s culture and general employment experience.
- Ratings and reviews sites: Companies such as Visual Objects and UpWork offer insights into how companies interact with clients. This information provides insights as to whether a company has high standards and treats its clients with respect.
Networking face-to-face with people about their job experiences combined with online research helps create a comprehensive picture of a company that you can use to determine whether it’s a good fit for you.
How Companies Can Capitalize On Networking Benefits
Networking allows candidates to put themselves out there to other career professionals.
Businesses and recruiting agencies can also take advantage of networking events by looking for candidates that use networking as part of their application process.
For example, if someone announces or discusses professional ambitions, goals, or core strengths that align with your company’s needs or values, that individual becomes a potential recruiting engagement.
In addition, a presence at networking events showcases your business’ commitment to being involved in your industry community. People notice who sponsors networking events and arranges opportunities for industry professionals to engage with each other.
Networking events also allow your company to provide more intimate details of “off-the-record” descriptions of your business that a formal information session or interview can offer.
About the Author
Grayson Kemper is a Senior Content Writer for Clutch, the leading platform for B2B ratings and reviews. He focuses on research and content efforts about B2B marketing and technology services help companies find the best resources for their next business services project.