How to Get Started

One good piece of news when it comes to networking is that when you are ready to start, you won’t have to do so from scratch: you already have a network to build from! Building your network – extending and deepening the relationships you have – is critical for your career development. But the first step is to inventory your existing network.

A classic manila folder--a page peeks out from inside itPortfolio Activity #17 – Consolidate Your Network

Take a few minutes to start brainstorming the people you already know. It can help to do this by category. If you’re worried about only having a small or limited number of people, just start with those closest to you!

Connecting with people you know

Start by reconnecting with people you know: reach out to your existing contacts. Share your goal of finding a new job or taking the next step in your career. Let your connections know about the type of jobs you are seeking and your preferred field. Your connections may be able to help by sharing their knowledge of existing opportunities, or connecting you to someone who knows about a position.

  • If it’s been a long time since you’ve connected, do not ask for help right away. Networking should always be treated like a give-and-take relationship of mutual respect, so, where appropriate, spend some time re-warming your mutual connection before asking for help.
  • Stay connected with people you know and also find out about formal events. Students can get great information from their career and academic departments. Keep your eyes open for events where you might make interesting connections.
  • Be specific about what you are looking for! You might be tempted to let your contacts know that you are open to just about anything but providing specifics prompts people to think of you when opportunities arise

Reach out for new connections

Expanding your network to include new connections will open up new sources of advice for your career path and job search. Let your current connections know that you’d be grateful to be introduced to anyone they think of who might have some good advice for your career efforts. If they offer an introduction, accept it with gratitude. Even if you are not certain whether the proposed connection will lead anywhere, pursue it with curiosity and an open mind: Sometimes the most valuable connections are not readily apparent at first.

One great way to find new connections is by volunteering in areas related to your career interests. For example, opportunities at organizations you want to work for can lead to internal connections, plus it shows your target employer the value you could bring as an employee. Even if it does not lead to a job offer, volunteering in your field of interest can be an effective networking technique because it lets you meet people who work in your target field. Checking out web sites like Volunteer Ontario and Charity Village can help you in your search for volunteer opportunities.

Networking groups and events

In addition to expanding via your current connections, it is also useful to tap into networking groups and networking events. These groups and events can be excellent resources to give and get advice. Valuable groups for networking might include your alumni association, professional associations in your field, local chambers of commerce, clubs and community volunteer groups, and LinkedIn groups (more about LinkedIn and online networking later).  These can be excellent resources to find contacts in your target field, occupation, or industry.

And don’t just stop at belonging to a group: find and attend networking events. Some networking events are specific to an industry or profession. For example, many professional organizations support their members with networking opportunities by offering conferences or trade shows, regular lunch-and-learns, or other networking events. In addition, employers sometimes offer their own information sessions or career events and students can benefit from career fairs sponsored by their college, university, or educational institution. Like all networking events, career fairs are good opportunities to meet others, learn about what they do, and forge new relationships that can be mutually beneficial.

What is a career fair?

A career fair is an event where multiple employers meet with job seekers to provide information about career opportunities and engage in recruitment activities. Attending a career fair allows you to connect with representatives from a variety of organizations and to learn more about the experience and qualities that employers are looking for in a hire. Meeting with company representatives at a career fair can offer you an advantage as a potential hire – since you get to know people by name – and they get to know more about you than they could just by reading your resume.

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