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Networking for Career Success

Whether one-on-one or in a group setting and whether in-person or virtual, networking can help you find solutions to career challenges and advance your career. Although networking may lead to getting hired, finding a job should not be the main objective. Rather, networking allows you to explore career options, get career advice and develop mutually beneficial professional relationships.

Remember that networking does not always mean reaching out to strangers. There are likely people who can help you on your career journey within the circle of people that you already know. For example, former colleagues, professors, classmates or acquaintances can help you find job opportunities and connect you with their own connections.

Networking is an especially powerful tool for individuals early in their career or switching career paths, who may lack relevant experience, industry knowledge and professional connections. However, anyone can benefit from forming connections with people who work in their field or in related areas.

In this networking guide, we provide tips for reaching out to form connections, participating in networking events and staying in touch with members of your network.

"Networking Word Cloud" by Epic Top 10

Determine the Focus of Your Networking

Whether attending an in-person networking event or making virtual connections, it's important to network with a goal in mind. Who do you wish to connect with? What do you wish to learn or achieve? Having a clear focus for your networking can help strengthen your pitch and ultimately lead to greater networking success. Remember that networking with people who have similar values and truly want to help you will be most rewarding and beneficial for your career. Here are some possible networking goals:

  • Learn about a career, industry or academic program

  • Discover what it's like to work at a certain company

  • Get career advice, such as job search tips

  • Get a referral for a job

Prepare Your Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a 30-to-60-second summary of yourself and what you do. Focus on what you want people to remember about you. You may have the chance to deliver your elevator pitch at a networking event or in an informational interview. Practise saying your pitch aloud so that you sound confident. Memorize the basic structure, not the specific wording, so that you can adjust based on the context. Here are some common components of an elevator pitch:

  • Introduce yourself and your background

  • Explain your top skills or strengths and what you have to offer to potential employers

  • State your objective, such as changing companies or connecting with people in a certain industry

Perfect Your Online Presence

Your profiles or publications on social media platforms and other websites could be new connections' first encounter with you. As part of your networking process, ensure that the information on different sites tells a consistent story about you. The most-relevant platforms will depend on your chosen industry and location. For example, LinkedIn is helpful for forming business connections, while Twitter is popular in fields like journalism, public relations and education. Here are some general tips for enhancing your online presence:

  • Keep your personal brand consistent across platforms, including a professional bio and profile photo

  • Regularly post relevant, interesting content

  • Check your privacy settings and keep your posts' tone and topic professional

  • Join social media groups for your industry/profession and participate in online discussions

Reach out on LinkedIn

You can use LinkedIn to find and reach out to professionals who work in your industry of interest. Whether it's to an employee at your dream company or a classmate you've lost touch with, make sure to personalize your LinkedIn connection requests. Include a short note explaining who you are and why you want to connect with this person specifically. Here are some suggestions for what to include in LinkedIn connection request messages:

  • Briefly introduce yourself and what you do

  • Explain how you found the person, such as through a search on LinkedIn

  • Mention something that you have in common, such as a shared interest or degree

  • Explain your reason for connecting and what you hope to get from the relationship

Conduct Informational Interviews

An informational interview is an informal discussion to help you learn more about a certain career, industry or company. Informational interviews are also an excellent way to expand your network. When requesting an interview, make it clear why you're interested in speaking with this person and what you're asking for, such as a 30-minute video call or coffee chat. Here are some tips to get the most out of your informational interview:

  • Prepare for the meeting by researching the person you're meeting and their industry and writing a list of questions

  • Be punctual and dress professionally

  • Listen attentively and take notes

  • Ask the person to recommend two to three other people for you to connect with

  • After the meeting, send an email thanking the person for their time and insights

Attend Networking Events

Networking events can take different forms, including speed networking, conferences and career fairs. It may feel intimidating to introduce yourself to strangers. However, think of these events as a chance to have conversations with interesting people and discover opportunities to advance your career. Here are some tips to consider when attending networking events:

  • Set a goal before attending the event, such as connecting with three people

  • Prepare by brainstorming conversation starters, such as industry news or current events, and practising your elevator pitch

  • Listen carefully to the people you are speaking with, ask follow-up questions and take notes after your conversation to remember important details

  • Send follow-up emails or LinkedIn messages after the event to people you enjoyed talking with

Stay in Touch With Members of Your Network

Meeting people is only the first step in networking. After your initial conversation, touch base regularly. Providing value to members of your network will build stronger connections and increase your chances of getting job offers and business opportunities. Consider using a spreadsheet to keep track of members of your network and how often you want to be in touch with them. Here are some suggestions for staying in contact with members of your network:

  • Send update messages or holiday greetings

  • Like and comment on their LinkedIn posts

  • Share articles that you find interesting

  • Offer feedback on their website or suggestions for solving a business challenge

  • Request their input on a project or idea

  • Volunteer your time to support them

If you're an aspiring change maker under 30 looking to develop your networking skills, Thrive can help! Here are a few options to consider:

  • Join the Thrive Community to learn about impact careers, join SDG-related webinars and career skill workshops, and connect with like-minded aspiring change makers from around the world (link)

  • Participate in the Thrive Career Program, a 2-week-long career development program to strengthen your job search skills and get support being placed at an impact-driven business (link)

  • Follow us on LinkedIn

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