3 strategies for building your career networkAug 19th, 2009 | By joegrimm | Category: Advice, Negotiating Jobs, News
By JOE GRIMM
A laid-off radio journalist at a convention job fair told me that she did not know what to do because she realized the importance of networking and did not have a network.
Really, she said, how could she have a network? She was used to spending her workdays in a windowless, padded studio.
She has three avenues to pursue, aside from those she found at the convention: existing contacts, through online networking and by meeting folks face-to-face.
You have them, whether you know it or not.
The best contacts are not the ones you make at work, but those who are somewhere else and who are exposed to different information. Start with family, old classmates and people from your working past.
Not long ago, I received an e-mail from my sister’s husband about a good journalism job that I wound up applying for. I didn’t know about the job because I wasn’t actively looking. My brother-in-law, who works in robotics, spotted it because he is laid off and is hitting the job boards every day.
If it has been eons since you contacted your old college friends, don’t let awkwardness over the long absence continue to hold you back. Call or e-mail. Ask them, “Hey, why don’t you ever call me?” They are as guilty as you. It’s easy to reopen that line, and being in pursuit of work is as legitimate as reason as any. And contact those former co-workers who have moved on.
While recruiting for the Detroit Free Press, I received a call from a smart former staffer who was working in Washington but who saw the handwriting on the wall for her bureau. She called me and a number of her contacts, just to remind us where she was and that she was interested in hearing about good opportunities. Her hustle led to a good job before she really needed one.
Online networking goes on all the time, but not always in the most effective ways. I like LinkedIn. LinkedIn is free for the basic service and can help you push your network in new directions. If you want to grow in a new career field, seek out people in that area — you probably will find someone on LinkedIn whom you know and who is already there. Contact them and then others in their sphere.
When I joined LinkedIn, I branched out toward people in digital media and technology.
But I would be lying if I told you I am doing it well. To work LinkedIn, you need to really participate in the chats, ask questions and share your expertise. You have to go beyond posting your resume and adding links. Good networking on LinkedIn — the kind that will bring results — requires you to be active.
MEETING ACTUAL PEOPLE
It’s all the rage. People meet real people — strangers, even. While they use the Web to find each other, they go to the same place and meet face t face. It can be kind of unsettling at first. But you’ll get used to it.
The person I met at the job fair was skilled at audio journalism and can read scripts. I advised her to get out and to meet people who might need that skill as part of their marketing. I suggested she see what organizations might be holding meetups in her area.
You can find out about meetups through meetup.com . There, groups of like-minded individuals meet to talk about their shared interests. I have been to meetups for startup builders in New York and search engine experts in Detroit. These allow us to instantly add to our networks. Our radio journalist might, at a marketing meetup, find advice she needs for pitching herself and people who need her services as an announcer.
Whatever the size of your network, you have something to start with and strategies to grow.