In the third installment of the Career Success Series, we visit the concept of networking. Networking is meeting, interacting and building relationships with professional and social contacts. This can include coworkers, family, friends, professors, fellow students, business professionals in your desired field, people at your church, gym…the list goes on. Every social interaction you have is an opportunity to network.
Networking allows access to opportunities that you might not otherwise be able to find on your own. Broadening and maintaining your network is one of the most important steps you can take to increase your chances of professional success.
Where to Start
A great way to start networking is by creating a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn has over 650 million users. In this tight job market many businesses are surfing LinkedIn to find potential candidates that match the skill sets they are looking for. The more robust your profile, the more likely you are to show up in their search results.
LinkedIn also allows you to identify and connect with business professionals in the field you are interested in pursuing. You may be surprised to learn how many people are open to helping others get their career off the ground.
Another great opportunity to connect with professionals is by attending local conferences and networking events. Most cities have Facebook pages for local residents to share ideas, ask questions, and get to know each other. Meet up and Eventbrite are two online platforms that host local events and are often free to attend.
Create an Engaging LinkedIn Profile
Creating an engaging LinkedIn profile will help increase your networking and career opportunities. Creating a bland profile will do just the opposite. Keep these tips in mind as you build out your profile:
Add a professional photo. Think business card photo not Snapchat photo. LinkedIn is a platform geared towards business professionals so ensure the photo you chose represents your image in a professional light.
Include the industry you are in, or interested in joining. Often times recruiters filter their searches by industry so when setting up your profile include either the industry you’re in, or want to be in, so they can easily find you. This will also help when identifying professionals to connect with.
Draft a compelling summary. I am a sucker for a good LinkedIn summary. Similar to a cover letter, but a bit more informal, use this opportunity to tell everyone who you are. Yes, include your career goals, and highlights from your experience, but don’t be afraid to include a personal touch. Let your personality come through, this is social media after all.
Detail any work or volunteer experience. Think of your LinkedIn profile as a digital resume. Include work history, education, volunteer experience, and relevant skills.
Add media if it pertains to your field. Did you design a website? Create an amazing PowerPoint presentation? Lead the development of an online newsletter? Include it! The more detail and information you can provide about yourself and your skills and experience the better.
While networking can be a great resource for many professionals, networks can put others at a disadvantage by preventing opportunities for women and underrepresented groups. Take a look at your friends or connections list – do the majority of the people on it look like you? For most of us the answer is probably yes. The first step towards changing something is recognizing the problem, so view this as an opportunity. When creating a network, be aware of who you are connecting with and ensure you are reaching out to a diverse group of professionals. If you already have an established network, consider expanding it further to those who may be different than you – different genders, ethnicities, industries, alumni, etc. and do your part to offer opportunities to those individuals as well.