Networking gives you access to unpublished information. People can give personal insight that websites, careers publications and recruitment material cannot give.
This section shows how networking can help you, identifies your networks and gives tips on how to build them. To get the most of a meeting with a contact, look at Information interviews for advice on how to prepare and ideas for questions to gain insight into careers and organisations.
Gain access to the best sources of career insight - other people.
Sometimes networking gets a bad press. You wouldn't think twice about asking a friend whether it is worth going to see a newly released film, so don't be put off asking people about their work. Most people are pleased to have someone take an interest and are willing to help.
Networking is about giving as well as taking. Even if you cannot directly give back to the person who helped you, you can help other people with their networking in future.
What networking can do for you
Networking is invaluable throughout your career. It can help you:
- find out more about a job or employment sector that interests you
- access job shadowing opportunities
- find out about how to enter a chosen career
- uncover job opportunities before they are advertised
- seek out about opportunities for collaboration with others
- help you understand the promotion process - and so improve your chances of career progression
- develop long-term professional relationships which could lead to personal invitations to apply for senior posts.
We all have networks, even if we do not consciously cultivate them. Your contact web includes:
- your family, friends and neighbours and their contacts
- your work colleagues at all levels and their contacts
- support staff who work in your institution (careers advisers, librarians, human resources professionals, training and development professionals)
- former work colleagues
- members of any professional bodies to which you belong
- people you meet at conferences and courses
- members of your online discussion groups and social networks
- members of social or sports clubs to which you belong.
Building your networks
Don't miss an opportunity to develop your networks - you never know when a contact may be valuable - or when you might be able to help someone else. Go to seminars, meetings and conferences, join groups such as professional bodies, staff associations and networks, and unions. You could also explore ways of networking online. Concentrate on areas where you need to increase your contacts. Don't confine your networking to the workplace, especially if you are keen to explore other career avenues. Ensure that you keep contact details up to date. Keep in touch by email or phone.
Arrange a meeting
Once you have identified a contact who could give you more insight, make a formal appointment and go prepared to ask specific questions. Look in information interviews for tips on arranging and preparing for them.
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