Networking tips for jobseekers

Updated 23 May 2023

Networking allows you to expand your professional connections, thereby increasing your chances of achieving your career goals. When done successfully, networking helps you get a job faster and gives you a competitive advantage throughout every stage of your career. In this article, we discuss what networking is, the different types of networking and how to network effectively.

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What is networking?

Networking is about building and nurturing mutually beneficial relationships with people you meet, whether you are attending a work conference or just waiting to order your coffee. You don't have to take part in every networking event that comes your way or join various professional associations to be a successful networker. In fact, you are already networking when you stop to chat with your neighbours, catch up with a former co-worker, meet your friend's friend or introduce yourself to other parents at your children's school. Everyone you meet can help you achieve your career goals.

Many people use networking not only to get a job or promotion faster but also to develop and improve their skill set. Additional reasons people use networking include :

  • Keeping a pulse in the job market

  • Staying informed about the latest trends in the industry

  • Gaining access to the necessary resources for career development

  • Learning how it is to work at a particular company or organisation

  • Meeting prospective clients, partners and mentors

Related: 14 of the best networking strategies and where to use them

Different types of networking groups

Alumni associations

Alumni associations are groups of former students who aim to build a lasting relationship with one's alma mater and promote the welfare of the school's alumni. These associations provide several opportunities for graduates to keep in touch with their alma mater and fellow alumni while also expanding their connections to increase their professional opportunities.

Job networking groups

Job networking groups, also known as job support groups, are initiatives facilitated by private membership groups and non-profit organisations that include networking groups as part of their offerings. These groups provide a lot of benefits, including opportunities to network and build connections, share leads and learn about career opportunities from other job seekers. These groups also provide workshops, in which job experts teach topics related to job search and transitions success.

Related: 10 key concepts that help you understand networking basics

Online job groups

Online job groups are initiatives facilitated by alumni associations or professionals working in the same careers. These groups publish or post new jobs for specific industries on their pages and newsletters. Job seekers who join these groups receive regular job updates matching their skills and qualifications. Sometimes, new job opportunities are posted on closed online groups, which benefits job seekers in those groups as they can apply earlier before the open positions are publicly posted.

Professional bodies

Professional bodies are groups of individuals in a learned profession who are authorised to maintain oversight or control of the legitimate practice of the profession. They usually conduct professional development and regional networking events that job seekers can attend, which can be useful for making new connections and learning the trends in the industry.

When job vacancies are available, professional bodies first share them with their members through newsletters. Job seekers can also volunteer when these bodies have events, as that can offer them networking opportunities that can lead to getting jobs.

Related: How to introduce two people over email and build a network

Trade and industry associations

A lot of professional organisations and associations provide networking opportunities at all levels of business, from entry-level employees and graduates to CEOs and Directors. Trade and industry associations are a way of keeping updated with the recent developments in your industry and meeting individuals who have experienced the same pain points or job roles as you. You'll also likely get invited to a variety of other networking events.

Trade and industry associations are a very traditional way to network with people. The conversation will typically be focused on industry-based issues, so make sure you think of an opinion that you can share and discuss. Also, there'll be a lot of opportunities to exchange contact numbers and get job leads.

Community groups

Community service groups, such as your local rotary club, need volunteers for their various programmes, for example, tree planting programmes, talks and summer fairs. Volunteering in community groups allows you to interact with many people, including business professionals and financial donors in your area. People will want to connect with you because of your interest in helping the community.

Related: What is network marketing and is it a good career choice?

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How to network effectively

The following are steps you must take when networking to ensure professionalism and success:

1. Utilise your online presence

One of the most effective networking strategies is making connections online. Social media sites provide great ways to learn insider information about your chosen career and connect with people and professional bodies. Keeping your profile active on various social media sites will keep you updated with the latest information about the field, including job leads and hiring trends.

Related: A guide to uploading CVs online (with email and CV tips)

2. Reciprocate

Many people are willing to share their ideas and sometimes their contacts with you, but you should be willing to offer your advice or help in return. If you are willing to reciprocate, you may find that people are more willing to help you.

3. Listen and establish rapport

Effective networkers are excellent listeners. Emphatic or active listening will help you establish a strong and more productive rapport or relationship with people. For starters, maintaining eye contact, leaning in towards someone, nodding and other positive body language demonstrates that you are paying close attention.

If the person you're talking to isn't paying attention, there's nothing you can do about it. However, you can at least make sure you are listening actively. During gaps in the conversation, you can use words such as "wow" or "yes" to express your interest, and rephrase some of the things they have told you back to them to show you are paying close attention.

Related: What are networking events? (With definition and types)

4. Be authentic

In any networking situation or job search, being yourself (the real you) must be your goal. Be who you are and express your goals and interests. Pursuing what you want and not what you think other people will approve of will always be more satisfying and ultimately successful.

5. Use conversational icebreakers

If you want to eliminate awkwardness when talking with new people and make a good first impression, you may start the conversation with a compliment. Compliments work for several reasons. They please the person you are talking to, which sets the conversation on a positive course. They also begin a conversation with something specific—for instance, if you compliment the shoes of a person, you may talk about where she or he got them.

Compliments also add a degree of familiarity and warmth to the conversation. Just make sure your compliments are both specific and honest—general compliments, such as "you look handsome/pretty" are not necessarily bad, but they do not give specific direction for the conversation.

Related: What Is Professional Networking? (Learn and Master It)

6. Overcome shyness

If you are naturally an introvert, it's challenging to network with people. Luckily, there are a few techniques that would help you overcome introversion and make connections. First, think of brainstorming icebreakers before a networking event. This way, you don't have to think of ideas on the spot. Second, take a break if you get overwhelmed. Take a walk, go to the restroom or sip a cup of coffee. You can go back to the venue feeling refreshed and ready to meet new people.

7. Ask good questions

If you don't want to appear awkward, then put the pressure on your conversational partner. You can do this by asking a lot of questions—it's much easier to think of good questions to ask and keep the conversation going than it is to talk exhaustively about a topic. This also gives the person you're talking to the opportunity to talk about himself—individuals love talking about themselves. Listen actively to what he or she is saying and ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation going.

Related: 9 useful networking connections and how to make them

8. Ask for advice

Ask for advice from people you talk to, as they may have contacts or information that can help in your job search or career advancement. Ask them for ways on how you can grow your professional networks or ask them to introduce you to recruiters or HR managers they may know. Pay close attention to what they say and ask questions in case any information is unclear.

9. Keep in touch with your network

Making connections doesn't end when the job fair or career event is over. Be sure to exchange contact information. Following up with people you've met at networking events continues the relationships and strengthens those connections.

Related: How to create a business network (and why it's important)

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