New Year, New Career (Part 4: Leveraging Networking and Connections)
Over the past few blog posts, we’ve been specifically discussing strategies and pathways for people who don’t just want to find a “new job,” but to switch careers entirely. If you’ve been tracking with me from the beginning, hopefully by now you’ve made your decision to pursue a new career; done a personal inventory (including identifying your talents, finding your “why,”) to reimagine how these might inform your career path; and begun taking steps toward filling in any educational gaps you may have. Now, it’s time to build on this groundwork you’ve been laying–and one of the most important ways to do that is by developing and utilizing a strong network.
I’m going to spend a bit of time on this topic because networking is one of the most powerful tools in your metaphorical toolbox to get your new career started–whether you’re finding clients for your own business or networking to find job openings. I emphasize networking highly when helping clients find new jobs in their chosen field–but it’s just as vital a tool when launching a brand-new caeer. Here’s why:
85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking. (Hubspot, 2019)
Let that sink in a moment because that’s a LOT of jobs. The vast majority of job positions are filled, not by answering job postings, cold calling, or blasting out one’s resume, but through connections. Not only that, but according to CNBC, 70 percent of job listings aren’t even publicly posted–so the only way to find them is through networking!
So for this final post in the blog series, let’s talk about practical and creative ways for you to build and nurture a solid network of connections and utilize that to find opportunities to launch yourself on your new path.
Start with Your Existing Network
Before branching out and forming new relationships, take some time to assess your current network. This includes friends, family members, classmates, professors, coworkers, and acquaintances, both in-person and online. Identify individuals who may have valuable connections or insights into your target industry, and make it a priority to reconnect with them.
Attend Industry Events to Expand Your Network Strategically
Industry events, such as conferences, seminars, workshops, and networking mixers, are excellent opportunities to meet professionals in your chosen field. When attending these events, make sure to bring business cards, practice your elevator pitch, and most of all, engage in meaningful conversations. Don’t forget to follow up with new connections after the event to solidify your relationship. (More on that in a minute.)
Join Professional Associations
Professional associations offer a wealth of resources, including networking events, educational opportunities, and industry-specific job boards. By joining these organizations, you have the opportunity to surround yourself with industry experts while gaining access to valuable contacts and demonstrating your commitment to your chosen field.
Learn the Art of the Follow-Up
It’s not enough just to meet new people at networking and industry events. Without a second and third contact, most people simply won’t have the mental power to remember you. So after making a new connection, particularly one with career-building potential, be sure to follow up with them. Send a thank-you note, connect on social media, or schedule a coffee date to continue building the relationship. If you’ve connected with them on line, regularly engage with your connections by commenting on their posts, sharing interesting articles, or reaching out to them with questions or updates.
Leverage Social Media to Connect with Professionals Online
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of LinkedIn when it comes to making business connections–but these principles will work on any other social platforms you join. Follow industry influencers, join LinkedIn groups related to your field, engage in relevant conversations, and share content that showcases your expertise. Optimize your LinkedIn profile by adding a professional photo, crafting a compelling headline, and highlighting your skills and accomplishments.
If you’re looking to transition into a new field, consider volunteering or freelancing to gain valuable experience, demonstrate your skills, and build your portfolio. In addition to enhancing your resume, these opportunities can lead to new connections and possible job offers.
Request Informational Interviews with Industry Professionals
An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone in your target industry that helps you learn more about their career path, company, and industry trends. Identify some leaders in your field and reach out to request an informational interview. When you meet, come prepared with thoughtful questions. Be sure to send a thank-you note afterward to express your gratitude and maintain the relationship. Not only can this technique give you valuable insights into your new field, but in some cases you can find a helpful mentor. (Sometimes it only takes one influential person to open a whole range of doors for you.)
Networking is a two-way street. As you work to build your connections, be prepared to offer value in return. Share job leads, provide introductions, or lend your expertise to others in your network. By being a supportive and valuable contact, you’ll strengthen your relationships and encourage others to reciprocate.
Nurture Your Connections: Build Long-Term Relationships
Networking is not just about making new connections; it’s also about nurturing existing relationships to build long-term relationships. Stay in touch with your contacts, congratulate them on their successes, and offer support when needed. By fostering genuine connections, you’ll create a network that can support your career growth for years to come.
This all may seem like a lot to remember, but as you get started, much of it becomes intuitive. After all, what you’re doing here is forming relationships, and once you get past the learning curve, relationships become a natural outflow of who you are. In this case, you’re forming relationships that can be helpful and even strategic for your career–but even when making strategic connections, those relationships can and should be genuine. Keep at it, and things should quickly become second-nature to you.
As always, if you want some one-on-one help in navigating your career change, not only can I help—I can relate. I know firsthand the excitement (and terror) of launching a new career, and I know how to help you find your way to other side of this life-changing transition. For a free, no-obligation consultation, just click here to access my calendar.