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Networking 101: Building Connections for Your Career

The first years of your career always come with uncertainties. But it’s these career unknowns that can hide untapped career opportunities. Beyond time and experience, networking is an invaluable resource that will help you navigate these and uncover career blind spots.

Maybe you haven’t figured out how to network or think it’s too time-consuming. You might also have preconceived ideas of what it takes to be a good networker:

“I’m not extroverted enough”.

”I’m not naturally charming”.

“I’m not that interesting”.

But here is the good news: networking is something you don’t naturally need to be good at to be great at it. As recruitment specialists, we can help you learn how to grow your professional network and share why investing some time into it each day can really help your career in the long term.

1. “Your network is your net worth”

Porter Gale

Do you roll your eyes when you hear networking is one of the most important business skills? It’s possible you’re uncomfortable with the idea that qualifications or experience aren’t enough to guarantee career opportunities. “Why should I rely on other people to progress?”, you might think.

It’s not so much about reliance on others as much as it is about making valuable connections. And while this might appear transactional, it comes down to the basis of relationship-building: genuine mutual interest, and a willingness to help each other out.

2. “The currency of real networking is not greed, but generosity”

Keith Ferrazi

As social creatures, helping each other has been our survival mechanism for thousands of years. It’s no different in the workplace: think of all the connections you’ve made since university or your first job. People have ideas, projects, opportunities, and a network of their own, which means it’s likely that you might be able to somehow help each other professionally in the future.

However, keep in mind that true generosity and a genuine desire to help is the only way to build valuable connections. Most people can spot self-serving interests, but to have a an authentic interest in others is one of the rarest people skills.

3.    “Know where you want to go and make sure the right people know about it.”

Meredith Mahoney

Social media platforms like LinkedIn have only increased our ability to connect and keep in touch with people beyond our addressable circle of contacts. By using it correctly, LinkedIn can allow you to put yourself in front of the right network of people. It’s the online equivalent of being in the right place at the right time.

Here are a few things you can do to boost your LinkedIn profile over time – try to do these for at least 5 minutes every day:

  • Share helpful, original content – even if it’s your opinion on a relevant topic in your sector. Make sure you have a ‘call to action’ to encourage people to reach out to you. You’d be surprised how many people are interested to hear what you have to say!
  • Be human. LinkedIn has become more accepting toward a “relaxed” content sharing style. Using a conversational (yet professional) tone will show you as relatable and approachable.
  • Engage. Respond to others comments and the algorithm will thank you-  even more so if you do it within the first few hours of posting.
  • Use community hashtags. This LinkedIn hashtags Chrome extension is a huge time saver.
  • Not ready to make your own posts? Commenting on relevant content is a good way to boost your profile, and a fantastic way to exchange thoughts and connect with people with powerful insights. Engage in conversations, but don’t be a keyboard warrior.
  • Be consistent. Don’t get lost in vanity metrics and remember networking is a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger it gets.

4. “My Golden Rule of Networking is simple: Don’t keep score.”

Harvey Mackay

Networking is a long term game, and the golden rule is to never expect anything in return. There’s of course an element of reciprocity, but the fact is not everyone will give back. Not because they don’t want to, but because people get busy, or simply forget. Regardless, burning bridges for trivial reasons isn’t worth it.

You never know where that colleague you enjoyed working with might be in 5 years, or when your previous manager who greatly appreciated your work might be hiring again. To progressively grow your network, why not:

  • Connect with talented people you bonded with professionally, and be their cheerleader (for example, drop them a DM to congratulate them for their recent promotion)
  • Look outside your usual network. Connecting with people from different walks of life ensures you’ve got a diversity of knowledgeable people in your network (e.g., if you work in marketing, why not also connect with graphic designers and photographers?)
  • Attend networking events. While social media is a powerful tool, it can never replace face to face interaction. Try to remember their name and a small fact to bring up next time… and watch their faces light up. Leaving them a tangible object like a business card can also help keep you in the back of their mind. And why not add your LinkedIn QR code to make connecting with you even easier.

5. “The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own.”

Bob Burg

Say you’re scrolling on LinkedIn and stumble upon a job opening. You’re not interested in it yourself, but instantly think of an ex-colleague you know would be perfect for the job

Still on the topic of helping others, a fantastic way to help your network is through referral schemes. Not only will you be helping a valuable connection, but you’ll likely be getting a reward, and a grateful friend that will keep you in mind in the future. A win-win situation for everyone.

At Sitka, we have our own referral scheme through which you could earn £300 for helping a friend. Find out more here and get in touch with us if any our vacancies could be interesting to someone you know.

To find out how we can work with you, please drop us a line