Networking. It’s the one word that collectively makes most job seekers cringe. But cliché phrases such as “not networking means not working” exist for a reason. When it comes to job searching and career exploration, networking is the number one tool. It’s the key to unlocking doors you won’t find through job fairs, on-campus recruiting and online job boards.
Networking opportunities exist all around you. Here are five outlets for sneaking networking occasions into your life.
1. Work at networking events: If you are a member of a professional association, don’t just attend the conference. Volunteer to help organize the meetings and conferences that everyone is attending. You likely won’t have to pay to attend the event, can be privy to the guest list and make connections with other volunteers.
2. Volunteer at “non-networking” events: Instead of running in the 5K, serve on the committee to help organize it. Is the organization you volunteer for coordinating a fundraiser? Join the group to help plan it. Look for joining opportunities through your place of worship, child’s school or other venues where you can work alongside other people.
3. Look for disguised networking events: Book clubs, exercise classes, moms’ groups/play groups. The reason for gathering isn’t to network, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t. Knowing that you already have something in common with others in the group makes these outlets less intimidating.
4. Break the elevator etiquette rule: Or strike up a conversation with the person you see every day at the bus stop. There are one-to-one networking opportunities around you every day. It won’t work every time, but you’d be surprised how often it does. Are you going to land a job interview through engaging in small talk on the elevator? Maybe not. But you might land an informational interview – which could lead to a job offer down the road. You’ll never know unless you try.
5. View family and friends from a networking perspective: It’s time to look at aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends in a different light. Do they know you’re job searching? Do they know the industries you’re interested in? Because if they don’t know, then you don’t know connections they may have to those industries.
Talk to a career counselor about developing your networking strategies. It’s a part of job searching that can’t be ignored.