Friday, June 24, 2011

The Key to Successful Career Networking

Career networking is many things, but there is one thing it is not: Working your contacts only when you need a job.  There is a belief amongst some job seekers that this is the only time you should be in touch with your network.  Why shouldn't this be the case?  After all, why should you be bothering reaching out to job contacts when you already have work? 

I've got some news for you: People are not going to be interested in helping you if it seems you only reach out them when you need something.  Even though you are unemployed, it doesn't mean there aren't things you can do to help them out.  Maybe they have recently become unemployed and you can give them some contacts of your own.  Helping out your people in your career network is the best way to ensure they will remember and help you.

Here are some other tips to strengthen your network:

  • Forward relevant websites or articles to your contacts.  This will show that you are thinking of them, and spark a potentially insightful conversation.
  • If you know someone in your network is looking for work, send them potential job openings.  This is even more effective if you know someone who works at the company that is hiring.
  • If it's convenient to you both, try and meet for coffee or lunch.  Online interaction can only get you so far.
Yet the most important tip of all is making new contacts.  You should be making new ones every week if you are to get the most out of networking.  You never know whether that next person you get in touch with could lead you to a dream nonprofit job.  Your initial communications with new contacts should be worded very carefully.  You should mention that you are interested in working in nonprofits, and would like to get their input on your resume or cover letter.  Mention that you would like to set up a phone conversation at their earliest convenience to talk about what kind of opportunities might be available in the industry. 

Remember, you don't just have to contact people at organizations to which you have applied.  The point of networking is not just to get an extra boost to your chances at a particular job, it is also to make you aware of opportunities you might not have discovered otherwise.  There is no reason that you won't be successful in your efforts if you are respectful and gracious in your messages.  So take a chance this weekend and start strengthening your career networking!

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