How To Create a Professional Network

In this lesson, you will:

Introduction

Why is it important to network?

Did you know that:

  • Talking to or contacting people you know in order to find job leads is the most effective way to find a job 

  • In some places, up to 80% of jobs are never even advertised

  • Approximately 60% of job seekers find their new job with the help of friends, family members, and personal contacts (people we already know, such as friends and family, doctors, or other acquaintances)

Read on to learn a step-by-step process on how to create your network. 

Step 1: Understand the importance of setting goals for your network

Determine your goals

Stephen R. Covey, author of the best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, tells us that the most effective people begin with the end in mind. We must first realize and understand where it is we want to go; only then can we take the right steps and make the best decisions to end up there. As Covey says, "the physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint.

Action Step: At this point, take a moment to write down what it is, exactly, you are hoping to achieve by creating a professional network. Ask yourself: 

  • What are you hoping to accomplish?
  • Would you like to get a job with a specific company or in a specific area?
  • Do you need to learn more about a field in which you are interested?

Step 2: Identify ways to create your network

Leverage existing contacts

Begin by brainstorming a list of all the people who might potentially be able to help you find a job. Think of friends, family, former co-workers, acquaintances, current or previous teachers - even people you know of, but don't personally know. Remember, they don't necessarily need to be from your industry, or even people who are currently employed. 

It's important at this point to also think creatively about who you might include or need to include. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Who would you go to in a crisis? 
  • Who would you go to for business advice? 
  • Who would you go to in order to get personal advice? 
  • Do you see any gaps in your network? How might you fix them?  
    • For example, are there more men than women? Do you have an abundance of non-business people and very few business people?

Action Step: Take a moment now to write down a list of people who could eventually become your professional network. 

Categorize your contacts

Look at your contacts and start thinking about how you might categorize them. 

Consider the following: 

  • How connected are they to you? 
  • What is their relevance to your job search? 
  • How connected are they to the job market you are interested in? 

Action Step: Take a moment now to categorize your contacts in a way that makes sense to you. This will help you prioritize who you should in talk to first.

Who might you consider to be a part of your professional network? (Choose as many as apply)

  • Current friends
  • Past professors/teachers
  • People who go to your church
  • Alumni from your school
  • Former co-workers

Step 3: Understand how to build and develop your network

Reach out to your contacts

Connect with your contacts in a genuine manner. Your goal here is not just to ask for a job, but to truly build a relationship that will have enduring value throughout the rest of your life. 

Invite your contact to coffee or to share a meal with you so that you can both catch up with one another. As you are catching up, mention that you are on the search for a job. 

These contacts can do the following: 

  • Refer you to hiring managers

  • Introduce you to people in your area of interest

  • Give you tips on hiring practices and review your resume

  • Recommend you on LinkedIn and serve as a reference (if in the same industry/line of business)

Request informational interviews

Begin broadening your professional network by reaching out to new contacts. Request informational interviews with those people whom you believe will best assist you in your job search. This could be individuals who work in organizations or positions you admire, could potentially hire you, or are likely to respond to your request.

This is a time to:

  • Ask for referrals; 
  • Request resume feedback; and
  • Leave a lasting, positive impression 

Build your relationships

Again, it's important to feed the relationship you've built with your contacts. This means to nurture your connections frequently - not just when you are job searching.

Keep your network updated on your progress, even once you've found a job. And send along  information that you think might be relevant to them. You want to build lasting, genuine relationships - not just have a group of people around that you occasionally go to when you want something.  

Remember that relationships are a two-way street: if you don't nourish them, you could be cut off from a source of information that could help you land a job in the future! 

Thank your network

Reach out to everyone who helped you in your job search. Whether they were a reference or just met for coffee, be sure to send or deliver a personalized thank you for their assistance.  Hand-written thank you notes go a long way and will help you maintain your professional network.

Remember that networking is challenging for everyone. It is an ambitious process that can be difficult, awkward, and uncomfortable - especially at the beginning. However, with time and continuous practice, you will improve and will be able to see your efforts pay off. 

Match each step with its description

  • Reach out to your contacts
    Reach out, catch up, and then casually mention you're on the job search. These contacts may be able to refer you to hiring managers, serve as a reference, or introduce you to people in your field.
  • Request informational interviews
    This is a time to: -Ask for referrals; -Request resume feedback; and -Leave a lasting, positive impression
  • Build your relationships
    Feed the relationship you've built with your contacts. and not just when you are job searching. Keep them updated on your progress, even once you've found a job.
  • Thank your network
    Reach out to everyone who helped you in your job search. Whether they were a reference or just met for coffee, be sure to send a personalized thank you for their assistance.

Practice and Share What You Learned

Share your story!

Action Step: Write or record your story about creating your professional network. Give examples of how you have engaged in each step and what the results were. Did you reach out to a friend who connected you to a hiring manager at a company who then sent your resume to a neighboring department?

Post in the Lesson Activity Page and tell us about it. Then, answer any questions that your peers may have. Together, we can all help one another become the best applicants out there! 

Additional Challenge:  

Think about how you might build a network in a place or area where you don't currently live. How might you leverage your network and use these steps to build that network? 

Post in the Lesson Activity Page