In a tough jobs market, where scores of people chase vacancies, many people emphasise the importance of networking.But what are the benefits of networking? And what can you do if networking doesn’t come naturally?
While it’s always important to talk to people and ask for their help, networking is less effective in certain types of work. For example, if you’re trying to get on to a graduate scheme in a large organisation, you’ll have to go through a defined recruitment process: it would look ridiculous if you tried to set up a meeting with the head of recruitment. If you’re applying for your first job or seeking an internship, all that may be required is a good CV or a well-prepared application form.
For many public sector jobs at various levels, you’ll have to work through a defined process which usually involves an application form. Large organisations also tend to have prescribed recruitment methods requiring you to submit an application form or CV to the human resources department, or via a recruitment agency.
In these circumstances, talking with insiders probably won’t lead directly to your name getting shortlisted. However, conversations could boost your knowlegde and understanding of the organisation, and could improve the standard of your application. It’s important to use every strategy which might shorten your job hunt.
Many people are averse to networking. Some will never do it, some do it unconsciously. But when they secure a new job, many career switchers say, “I wish I’d started talking to people earlier”. Whether you enjoy networking or not, it always helps to find out as much as you can about a sector before you get into a selection process. Learning to have conversations with a wider group of people is a relatively small step, so even if you only do it a little bit, it will still make a difference: it contributes to multi-strategy job, which improves your search methods, not necessarily make harder.
Why should you tell people about your career goals?
• Networking lets you pick up insider information about jobs, sectors and organisations which will help you prepare applications and interview answers.
• You’ll gain confidence in talking about yourself.
• You can learn from other people’s experience, such as from those who have applied for similar jobs.
• Friends, family and colleagues may alert you to vacancies.
• You’ll pick up information that might lead you towards unadvertised jobs.
Keeping it simple
Focus on doing what you can with the resources you have, and the channels available to you. This may mean applying for advertised positions, or offering yourself as a candidate for jobs handled by agencies.
You need to be able to describe your achievements rather than repeat old job descriptions. You’ll need to learn to talk about what you’re good at without sounding hesitant, or so arrogant you won’t be believed. Learn to tell the “story” of your career. Move beyond what your job description states and start to communicate what you enjoyed, what you learned, how you changed the job, and what was difficult or challenging.
What is your job called?
Knowing what your next job is called in different contexts helps you find similar roles at other companies. Research jobs that interest you and note what the position is called. Use these job titles to guide your search. Write and talk about past job titles with care. If they are vague or impenetrable, explain or unpack them terms that make them more recognisable.