This guest post was written by Sheila Taylor, a Northeastern University Career Development intern.
: the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business
Most of us associate networking with finding a job. While you’re actively seeking employment, you’re busy forging relationships with people who may help you land that dream job. Networking is about meeting and talking with people. By creating a relationship during the conversation, you will be able to ask, “Who do you think I should talk to next?”
What if I were to tell you that networking shouldn’t end when you find a job? Would you groan in dismay, or would you jump up and say, “Yeah!” to continue building relationships?
For many people, networking is work. It’s a fine art form that you develop over time. Everyone must refine their skills to reflect their style. For some people, they can walk into a crowded room and instantly connect with strangers. For others, it takes practice to find the right conversation starter and to have the confidence to introduce themselves to an industry leader.
After many years in the work force, three careers and an international move, I want to remind you not to abandon that network you diligently built while job hunting! Did you meet some fascinating, fun people along the way? Would you like to have a reason to stay connected? It’s important to continue to cultivate those relationships for business. You never know when you may need them!
Here are some strategies for continuing to network after you have found employment:
First of all, thank the people in your network that led you to where you are now, especially the people that helped you during your active job search. Then, let them know where you are working and how they can reach you. Send them your v-card. Update your LinkedIn profile. Who knows, maybe you can return the favor and give them some valuable information some day.
Are there some interesting people that you connected with? Were they easy to talk to? Did they seem open to answering your questions? Consider building a base of mentors. Some of the people you met through your information interviews or while attending professional association meetings may be willing to fill this role. Why seek out mentors? Early on in your career there may be projects that your supervisor assigns to you that could seem daunting but you don’t want to disappoint them or appear unfit to take on the challenge. Here is where a mentor comes in: they may give you some advice on where to start or how to face the challenge. They may be able to help you brainstorm or problem-solve to come up with a solution to a problem.
I sought out mentors when I landed my second job. Some elements of my job were very new to me – such as conducting interviews with national media outlets. I was alone. None of my work colleagues had experience in this role – they were all happy to push me in front of the microphone! I turned to a few people that I had met at a professional workshop. I called them and asked them for advice. They became my informal “committee of advisors” cheering me on from the sidelines and supporting me during a stressful time.
You may find mentors or advisors in the most unlikely places. I recall participating in a committee for a corporate-wide project. Whenever I presented material to the committee there was one colleague that always challenged my work. At first I was offended and then I realized they took interest in my work and they wanted me to succeed. After the project ended, I sought out this person from time-to-time because I knew they would give me a different perspective. I have also met people through groups on LinkedIn. I have participated in group discussions and have found that a particular person provides good advice or resources. I will connect with that person and turn it into an opportunity to meet and strengthen the connection.
Networking can also help you grow as a person. Maybe you’ve been in your job for a couple of years and you want to expand your skills – use your network to research how to try out these skills in other ways: through volunteering or getting active in a professional association.
Finally, networking is a little bit like being a gardener. You have to continue to nourish and feed your contacts to keep your network alive. Share information with colleagues. Show interest in what your contacts are doing. Find out about industry trends. Grow your network. Who knows when it may be time for you to look for another job? If your network is active, you can hit the ground running and cut down on the time spent searching for your next opportunity. Better yet, your network may seek you out for a job that is never advertised.
Sheila Taylor worked in the Career Development office as an intern and recently left to move back to Canada. She has worked in both the United States and Canada in Public Relations before transitioning to become a Career Counselor.