Many career changers know that networking is something they should be doing, but they still ask – what is networking?
Anyone offering changing career advice will tell you that it is probably one of the most valuable tools in your career planning strategy.
So let's be clear from the outset. It is not about finding a quick fix to your career change and job search problems. Networking is about building relationships, not just filling an address book with as many names and numbers as possible.
It is a two-way process where you make contacts that may be beneficial to you, but where you also offer information and assistance in return. Do not expect to get the magic answer to your career change questions at a single meeting.
Networking should become a lifelong habit that you use throughout your career - and it can be relevant and useful outside of work too!
So what are the benefits of networking? It can serve many purposes, including enabling you to:
For anyone considering a job change, career networking can be invaluable whether you are at the early exploratory stages or at the point of seeking specific job opportunities.
Well actually, as the advert said, anytime, anyplace, anywhere!
But having said that, there are two approaches that are particularly relevant to career changers.
Both of these can just happen informally or they may be set up intentionally by you.
Networking know how suggests that you should develop a mindset that where you take advantage of casual meetings that happen unexpectedly. You never know when you might meet someone who could give you just the lead you need to move the career change process forward.
At the same time, you should also have a more planned networking strategy where you actively seek out opportunities to meet with people who may be able to help.
There are many skills that will make you an effective networker. If you have done the skills assessment exercises on this site, you may have realised that you have some of them already. Here are some of the most important ones:
If you think of yourself as an introvert (or the simple personality test on this site has suggested this) or you feel awkward talking to strangers, don’t panic. Networking is not just for the extroverts amongst us. You may prefer to do more 1-1 networking or when in groups, focus your attention on asking questions to get others talking first.
At the same time, remember that networking is a great opportunity for you to develop, so try to push the boundaries of your comfort zone by taking small but manageable risks with your networking from time to time.
So what is networking? It's great tool for career changers and job seekers so make sure you use it to your best advantage!