One of the best ways to create job opportunities for yourself is through your personal network and connections.
While it might sound a bit intimidating, networking isn’t as complicated as it may sound. 80% of professionals value networking and believe it can have an impact on long-term success. You just have to learn how and when to use your connections to land a job!
If you want to build your professional network, you should look for people who work in either the same or a similar field that you can learn from. And don’t forget that your family and friends may also have a lot to offer.
This article will help you identify the types of people you should add to your network and offer some tips to connect with them.
What is a professional network?
Your professional network is made up of connections to other people. These people are interested in your success and offer support to help you achieve your career goals.
Your connections can help in lots of ways. They might offer you a job referral or notify you of a position that hasn’t been advertised yet.
And, if you want to change careers, someone in your network could have been through a similar experience and may be able to offer career advice.
Your professional relationships should be mutually beneficial. You’ll need to stay in touch with your contacts and give them support with their own careers.
How to identify your existing network
Whether you are a seasoned worker or a student looking for a first job, you're already part of a network.
Your existing network might include friends, family members, teachers, mentors, managers, and coworkers.
Think about the people around you. Who would you speak to if you need help in the following areas?
Finding new job opportunities
Exploring new career paths
A reference for a job
Anyone that comes to mind is probably a valuable person for your network.
Who should you include in your network?
Your network is only as strong as the individuals you connect with. Try to include a range of different people in your network to expand your reach.
Connections can be people you already know and people you haven’t met yet.
Here's a list of people you should consider adding to your professional network:
1. Social media users
In today’s digital world, establishing a strong online presence is just as important as interacting with people face to face.
Building connections through online platforms is a great way to expand your network. For example, you can sign up with Jobcase and participate in community discussions. And, if you find someone who you’re interested in connecting with, send them a request.
Online communities have changed the networking landscape. You can rely on your fellow members for introductions, referrals, references, and reviews, all in one convenient place.
Tips for connecting on social media:
Before connecting with others on social platforms, here are some quick tips:
Choose a professional profile photo. When you have a photo, it helps to build trust and show others that you’re a real person. While you don’t need to hire a professional photographer to take a glamor headshot, please don't upload a bathroom selfie.
Take the time to fill out your online profile. Filling out your profile with your complete work history and job preferences can help you match new opportunities.
Don’t be afraid to give your page some personality by adding a descriptive bio. Include your education history to help people who went to the same school find you.
2. Past supervisors
As long as you’ve left on good terms, your old boss or manager will usually be happy to become part of your network.
They can be a valuable resource during your job search, acting as a reference should you need them.
When the time comes to look for a new role, these leaders may know of other opportunities that you could be a good fit for. And they could help you make a new connection with someone at that organization.
Tips for connecting with past supervisors:
If you haven’t spoken to your past supervisor in a while, the way you connect will depend on your relationship. For example, if you’re already friends on social media, you can send them a quick message.
If you still visit your workplace, you can catch up in person. Or, you can send them an email with an update about your career.
Remember to keep your communication professional. You can learn how to write a career networking email here.
Current and former coworkers
Your coworkers — past and present — can be good additions to your professional network. One of the greatest benefits they can offer is “insider” access to new jobs that may be opening up.
This can help with internal moves or opportunities for advancement before they are publicly advertised.
Coworkers can also vouch for your work ethic and skills, including teamwork, communication, and customer service.
While they may not be able to provide a “supervisor’s viewpoint” of your skills, they can give an inside look at what it is like working alongside you day in and day out.
Tips for connecting with coworkers:
If some of your coworkers have similar career goals or interests, try to get to know them.
Make sure you ask questions, listen, and check in regularly. If you’re not working in the same office space, you can communicate via email or video chat. And, you can add them to a professional networking platform such as LinkedIn.
If a coworker has success at work, make sure to congratulate them. When you’re supportive of their goals, you’ll build a stronger, long-term relationship.
Friends and family
While it might seem silly to include friends and family in your professional network, they can be a great asset.
Even if you and a friend work in completely different fields, you can ask them to help you solve problems in ways you haven’t considered before.
Often, the people closest to you will have connections they can introduce you to. For example, your uncle could know someone who is hiring. Or, your friend could be working in an industry that you’re interested in.
Tips for connecting with friends and family:
Your friends and family will be in your personal network, but what about your professional one? Not everyone in your circle will want to talk about your career goals, so leave the brainstorming sessions for those who are genuinely interested.
The best thing about having your friends and family in your network is you’ll always have an excuse to catch up. You can meet for coffee while they look over your resume or help you practice your job interview questions.
Make sure you also support your friends with their job search and career goals.
Clients and customers
Have you ever worked as a freelancer, tradesperson, or salesperson? You could have clients or customers that you could add to your professional network.
Testimonies from clients can help you land future jobs. And, clients and customers can connect you with job openings.
For example, they can reach out to their network to see if there are any opportunities. Alternatively, they could be happy to give you a recommendation.
Tips for connecting with clients:
Adding clients to your network won’t always be appropriate. But, if you have a good working relationship, staying in touch will be easy.
If you have your own business or side hustle, you can give your customers a business card.
And, when you communicate with clients via email, you can include your social networking details in your signature.
Remember, if you give good customer service and care about your clients, they’ll be more likely to recommend you.
Teachers and coaches
Those first starting in the workforce won’t have managers and coworkers to give them career advice. Instead, you can look to your teachers and coaches to help you achieve your goals.
Teachers can vouch for your work ethic, reliability, and time management skills. And they can help you choose a career pathway.
Coaches know how well you work in a team and whether you have good listening and communication skills.
Both teachers and coaches can give you references for your first job.
Tips for connecting with teachers:
If you want your teacher or coach to recommend you for a job, make sure you demonstrate your skills.
For example, you should show them you have good time management skills by arriving on time and finishing all of your work before the due date. Try to be polite and engaged and supportive of your peers.
The best way to ask a teacher or coach for a reference is usually in person or via email.
Building your professional network
Your professional network can give you the support you need to get a job or change careers.
Growing your network means more opportunities for job referrals and access to new roles ahead of the competition. People in your network can also offer references and career advice.
There will be a range of people in your existing network, but you can still grow your list of connections both online and in-person.
To get the most from your network, make sure you also support people and congratulate them on their own successes.