Networking is not about shamelessly touting for work – that’s what Job Ads and Job Sites are for – and overt self-promotion is unlikely to get you far. On the other hand, embracing the true spirit of networking, where you connect with people primarily to learn or share something, might do your job prospects no harm at all.
This softer approach doesn't have the pressure of an out-and-out job hunt, and gives you the space to take a genuine interest in, and connect more personally with, the people you meet face-to-face or online. A few friendly, informal conversations with industry colleagues will usually yield better results than sending out hundreds of speculative begging letters or handing out business cards willy-nilly in the desperate hope of getting work.
Expressing yourself confidently face-to-face in a relaxed environment (or even in an online discussion) can leave a lasting impression in a way that a CV – and even a formal interview – can’t. It’s a chance to share what makes you tick professionally – what you’ve enjoyed and learned, and how you’ve responded to difficulties or challenges.
Make the right impression and you could find yourself being headhunted in next to no time. Even if they aren’t looking for someone like you to join their team, they might know someone who is, or introduce you to ideas and avenues you had never even considered before.
Whatever the outcome, all the time you’re busy practising your networking skills and improving your odds of finding interesting opportunities of all kinds.