The value of networking

Navigating the world of work – whether applying for the first job role or a new role – can be a daunting experience. TPT trustee Helen Mitchell provides advice on  how networking can help blind and partially sighted people in their career. 

 

For those who know their own strengths and aspirations may find it easy to find a job that is of interest, others may need to do some work to figure out their career path. For all of us, it goes without saying that networking is extremely valuable. It can help uncover hidden options and open doors to opportunities.

What value can a network bring?

Networking enables you to build long-term relationships with many mutual benefits – whether emotional support or access to information. Networking can enable access to wider communities, personal and career development opportunities.

Sustaining long-term trusted relationships through your network will increase your chances of having immediate access to a pool of people who can act as an informal sounding board. Sharing ideas can be a powerful mechanism for self-reflection, growth and experimentation within a safe space.

Your network can act as a profile builder or for you to become noticeable within particular circles or professions and thereby opening up opportunities. Meeting the right people can propel your career onto better things.

How can my network support me with my job search?

A network can help you effortlessly build your career and uncover opportunities you might not have otherwise known existed. Many roles are filled through networking, word of mouth or referrals –so may never make it to applicant stage. Your network may be able to let you know if their company is likely to consider growing or hiring.

Your network can provide informal references and recommendations, strengthening your profile and even help secure you an interview. Equally you can gain insight into what it is like to work for the company, and better understand the role. Job titles and descriptions only reveal so much about a role and may not provide you with the scope of the role. A Software Developer in one company may be classified completely differently in another company, even though both roles have the same job title.

What steps can I take to nurture my existing network?

Remember it is a two-way relationship, a ‘give and take’ exchange of value and value can mean different things to different people.

If you haven’t seen people in a while, you can nurture your existing network by taking steps to re-establish personal connections. Always look for common ground when doing so. Re-establishing personal connections might mean checking-in informally for a simple catch-up. Show interest in their career progression, studies, professional recognitions, online posts, hobbies, personal life and check-in every now and again to keep the relationship going.

 

What impact has the pandemic had in shaping someone’s ability to grow their network?

Since the pandemic, a lot of organisations have implemented home working. People who valued in-person networking suddenly found themselves navigating the virtual world. However, the more technically savvy found themselves thriving in the virtual world. They were able to reap the benefits that arose from home working due to more and more people connecting online. It was suddenly possible to access wider audiences instantaneously at the push of a button.

Social media has proven its value in becoming a powerful force for people to develop their networks and access larger audiences than ever before. For example, LinkedIn’s study shows the benefits of establishing personal connection. 82% rating networking as a vital tool to utilise during the job search and 73% of respondents saying they secured a job role through a personal connection.

How can I grow my network in the virtual world?

A powerful step to grow your network could be by offering help to an individual without expecting the favour to be returned. For example, if you come across a job seeker on LinkedIn you might want to reach out to say hello and introduce them to contacts who might be able to help them get an interview. This can help you develop credibility instantly while allowing you to develop your network. While it feels good to be generous and pay it forwards, you don’t need to always offer help.

There are other ways to develop your network, including attending virtual events, remote networking gatherings, conferences, interactive training sessions and seminars or creating an online blog or post to discuss topics of interest.

What practical steps can I take to grow my network in a virtual world?

Here are 7 tips:

  1. Start by establishing your goal for example, you may aim to simply re-forge the connection with a contact that you haven’t spoken to in ages, asking for access to their network so that you can meet new people. Or you may want to be more direct in seeking to secure specific guidance to help you explore a new career route.
  2. Reach out informally to individuals within your network to see how they are doing. Share information about yourself and form a personal but professional connection.
  3. Don’t dive in straight away with a request. Remember the network is a two-way street. A ‘give and take’ exchange of value will likely pay off. Personalise your approachlook for common ground and support one another!
  4. If you are looking to be introduced to a new connection, perhaps connect by phone so you can provide some context to your goal. See if your connection will help you solve the problem and volunteer connections. You may even be directed to events, conferences, virtual gatherings or in-person meetings that may open doors.
  5. If the contact isn’t well known to you, it might be beneficial to take the pressure off by making the conversation brief since this is a good way to show respect for their time while establishing credibility. Talk about why the meeting is beneficial and perhaps ask to follow-up again in future.
  6. Always put yourself in the shoes of your contact and see how they are likely to perceive and interpret the request. Remember every conversation should be mutually beneficial for everyone involved and always leave the conversation on a positive note.
  7. Finally, never underestimate the value of showing gratitude. Always show appreciation and thank your connection for their support!

Networking should be straight forward. Enjoy the experience and be brave!

 

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