Awkward small-talk with strangers over third-rate coffee in a stuffy conference room, anyone? No? It’s probably fair to say that networking has a bit of an image problem and can sometimes feel like an occupational chore. We all know we should be doing it, but why bother?
If you are looking for work, word of mouth plays a large part in the recruitment of many employees. Like it or not, networking could be one of the most direct routes to a new or better job, even if you feel like you’re having too many conversations that go nowhere. Whether you are actively jobhunting or not, networking in the right place with the right people can help you to:
- Gain insights about and contacts in organisations you are interested in working with. And if you are currently applying to them for work, this will also help you with the next point.
- Improve the standard and focus of your job application.
- Get insider information about other employers in your line of work, and vital leads for unadvertised jobs.
- Practice going on about yourself (in a good way!) When colleagues and recruiters ask you what you do, they want to get behind your job title and find out what makes you tick professionally: what you’ve enjoyed and learned, and how you’ve responsed to difficulties or challenges. Expressing yourself confidently face-to-face in a relaxed environment can leave a lasting impression in a way that a CV – and even a formal interview – won’t.
- Learn from the experience of your peers – e.g. their experience in applying for similar roles to you and what did and didn’t work for them.
Networking is also (and perhaps primarily) a great way to collaborate with peers and share ideas. Adopting a more relaxed attitude where you come to learn something will usually have better results than handing out business cards willy-nilly in the hope of getting work. A softer approach takes some of the pressure off your jobhunt, and gives you the space to take a genuine interest in and connect more personally with the people you meet. They may not be able to help you directly, but they might know someone who can, 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. And who knows, you may even realise you’re enjoying yourself!
See our Careers Advice section for more work-related tips and information.