Marie-Jo Wilson, Assistant Director Careers Consulting at the Business School, gives her insights into making the most of networking and how it can benefit your career:
“There are different definitions of what networking is, but simply defined, it is the action and art of building positive human relationships.”
The key aspects of networking are:
- Interacting with professionals in your field of interest to exchange information and develop mutually beneficial relationships – not just when you need a job
- Establishing strong relationships, where both sides are honest and transparent with each other, so that you can enlist support and ask for ideas, advice, and referrals
- Reciprocal – sharing information and knowledge with others, helping or collaborating
Finding a job – why networking works?
Marie-Jo uses an adapted version of advice from ‘What Colour is your Parachute’ by Richard Bolles to outline the job hunting process.
“The idea is that many, if not most, employers will search for talent in the exact opposite way from how job hunters search for jobs. You should focus on the bottom two sections of the pyramid instead of the top when job hunting. It is called the ‘hidden job market’ and the best way to tap into this is by building advocacy with the right people.
“Networking is synonymous with building advocacy. It is about building your network of people who advocate you and your career.”
Developing a competitive advantage
When exploring career options networking plays an important role in:
- Deciding where to focus – Learning more about certain roles, specific working environments and career paths will allow you to make a better decision on where to focus your application efforts.
- Sourcing opportunities – People working in the industry can share important tips on how to expand your list of target companies and the kind of job title to search for.
- Hidden job market – They might also have access to opportunities that are not out there on job boards or at least give you a heads up. Some companies have a referral process in place, a set of opportunities you will only be able to access if you build up a strong network that will refer you when the opportunity comes up.
- Applications, interviews, assessment centres – Networking allows you to develop a deeper understanding of the role, company and industry. It develops your commercial awareness which you can then use to prepare better applications and perform better in interviews. It might also give you a competitive advantage when it comes to negotiating a job offer.
- Career progression – Keeping a strong network is the most likely way you will progress in your career with your contacts, as well as current and former colleagues, signposting you or referring you for opportunities.
Overall because your network is likely to contribute hugely to your next job, prioritising time for this rather than only sitting and trawling through job boards and applying speculatively is essential. Some experts say that 70 to 80% of the vacancies in the UK are filled through networking, some of them are not even listed in jobs boards
The concept of networking is also linked to that of personal brand. You are building your personal brand daily in every interaction:
“In today’s fast-changing economy and shifting workplace environments, personal branding is no longer a luxury; it has become a critical survival skills,” William Arruda, Personal Branding Guru.
Speaking at a recent alumni event, Alicia Thakrar, Enabler and Speaker, recommended three key steps building a personal brand:
- Dive Deep – what makes you, you? Your brand is you at your best, the essence of you at your highest potential.
- Strategise – what lifts you out of ordinary? “Take off the layers you have adopted from others as to what success looks like – nice house, fancy car, good job, happy family etc, and review what success means to you,” advised Alicia.
- Live True – apply the things you have learned about yourself to actualise your image of success. Use this information to live the life you want and work for the companies that align with your values and brand.
Managing your online presence
Social media platforms you can be leveraged to:
- Increase your visibility
- Establish credibility
- Position yourself as a strong potential candidate and trusted professional.
“LinkedIn is a relevant job search tool in the UK – 94% of recruiters use it to seek out potential job candidates. However it is essential that you have a consistent online presence and brand. Google yourself to see what comes up – employers might do the same!”
For more support you can access our online webinars:
- How to build your business using LinkedIn
- How to make an impact and get ahead at work
- Informational interviewing
To discuss how you can take a networked approach to your job search, postgraduate alumni of the Business School can book an appointment with a Careers Consultant, by contacting Careers on firstname.lastname@example.org *
*Please note postgraduate alumni who graduated in the last five years can have up to five appointments with the Careers team in a year, after this time alumni can request up to two appointments a year, subject to availability.