Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 8 Looking to Your Network

Previously: Step 7: Putting It All Together

Step 7 might actually be the hardest step in this process because there's no way for anyone to tell you what you want to do or what you should be doing. You need to tell yourself that and it takes a lot of thinking to come up with the right answer.  Once you find the answer, it's time for action.

Step 8: Looking to Your Network
Let's start with the basics. What is networking? Simply put, networking is making connections with people. That's all. It is really not a very complicated process and is very easy to do.

Most people don't understand that they are already networking everyday, all the time. They don't think of the people with whom they interact in the right way.  The fact is that each of us already has a network. If you think you don't have a network, then you literaly must not know a single person on the face of the planet. If you know even one person, then you have a network because that person knows people.

So, your network is the people you know and the people they know. The act of networking is simply meeting people. You don't actually have to start networking because you are already doing it. You just have to realize that you are doing it and that your network already exists. 

See how easy networking really is!

The actual task of networking is twofold. First you need to figure out how to leverage your network to your benefit. Second you need to constantly grow your network. The bigger your network the more opportunity that lies therein. As your network grows, the net you are casting becomes wider and wider. You may call on people in your network to help you and eventually others will call on you to help them.

The statistics for the number of job seekers who get a job as a direct result of their networking efforts are overwhelming. I've read that the number is 60%, 60%-80%, 75%. No matter what the actual number is, their is no denying that the #1 most effective way to find a job is through networking. If you want, go ahead and try to prove me wrong, I'll wait...

...couldn't do it could you?

So step 8 is all about a networking blitz. This is the point in the process where the actual job searching begins. Since there's certainly no limit to the number of ways to meet people I can't possibly list all of the ways you can network. So here are some suggestions to get you started:
  1. Turn to your college alumni association. Ask them for a list of people in your area who work in your target industry.
  2. Are you on Linked In? If you aren't, get on it now.
  3. Look at your Facebook friends and see who works in your target industry.
  4. Look for local organizations or associations and join them. Attend their networking events.
  5. Ask your friends and family for contacts in your target industry.
  6. Volunteer in your area, especially in your target field if possible, and start meeting people.
  7. Make a list in your notebook of all of the people you are coming up with.
The whole point of this step and networking in general is to find and meet people. The next step is about contacting them. Someone you know knows someone who knows someone and you need to find and meet that person. It doesn't matter how you do it. Just find them. They are out there. Every day they're going to work just like you. They are going to the gym. They attend social events in the evening and on weekends. They go to book clubs and are invovled in churches. Every day they'd be glad to stop and spend a few minutes talking to you.

Networking doesn't need to be done in a business or professional setting. It can and will happen everywhere, anywhere, and at anytime.  It happens in line waiting to pick up your kid at preschool. It happens standing on the sideline at soccer games chit chatting with other parents. It happens in line at the deli waiting for your lunch. As you go through your days and weeks and meet and interact with people, think of every single person with whom you interact as someone in your network and consider how they might be able to help you in this process. Keep meeting people and making lists of their names in your notebook because you're about to learn how to use them.

Up Next: Step 9: Using Your Network

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