Most of us were told that when we grew up we could be anything we imagined ourselves to be… the world was our oyster. Speakers at high school and college graduation ceremonies talked about the wide world of possibilities and encouraged us to explore our unlimited potential. “Turn over every rock… don’t be afraid to fail… never give up…” they proclaimed.
And so we did.
Yet, for some, venturing out into the unknown landscape left us searching for more. More purpose-oriented work. More intellectually stimulating projects. More opportunities to apply our talents. More satisfying working relationships. We jumped from job to job seeking a better fit only to find ourselves up against applying to positions through online screening processes that screen for candidates who have “been there, done that”, rather than those who are looking to “go there, be challenged”.
If you feel stuck in your career, consider networking your way to activating your full potential!
Why networking? Because:
- Networking is responsible for filling as many as 85% of all jobs.
- 70-80% of people ended up in their current position thanks to networking.
- 80% of professionals believe that you can elevate your career success through professional networking.
- Nearly 80% of professionals consider professional networking to be important to career success.
- 46% of freelancers got work via networking with friends and family.
1. Define What Your Reaching For
Even with a compass, you can get lost if you don’t know where you want to go. Before you start networking towards your next dream job, be clear about what makes it your dream job so you can articulate your quest to others. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What skills does my dream job require and do I have them or do I need to acquire them?
- Are there positions I need to hold that lead up to being qualified for my dream job?
- Does my dream job require me to be located in a certain geographic area and, if so, am I prepared to move there?
- What kind of work/life balance does my dream job allow for?
- Does my dream job pay enough to be financially healthy?
- What will a day, a week, a month, or a year be like once I get my dream job?
- Who do I know that has the dream job I’m pursuing?
The last question is the first and most important one to consider. You can hardly address the rest of the questions without networking with someone who has or has had the position you imagine for your future self.
2. Identify Individuals Who are Where You Aspire to Go
At first glance, it may appear that you don’t know anyone who can provide insight and help you navigate a path to success. Maybe you don’t, but chances are very good that you know someone who knows someone who can guide you forward. To identify them, make a list that includes:
- Family members, friends, neighbors, and others readily available to explore connections.
- Organizations that you belong to such as spiritual, community, recreational, and shared interest groups.
- Online career sites where participants can interact and offer support to one another.
- Peers from your current or past positions.
Once you have your list, rank them according to how likely it is that they will be able to help you in your search based on their availability, familiarity, and willingness to support you.
3. Make It Easy for Others to Help You Network Your Way to Success
Now that you have your networking list, begin working the list. While most people are happy to help others in their career growth, without knowing exactly what they are being asked to do, it can feel overwhelming to offer up the time and effort to do so.
To help others, help you, make it clear what you are looking for and make it easy for them to provide it if it is within their ability to do so. Here are some talking points to get across that will make your ask easy and effective:
I understand that you (or someone you know) are familiar with (companies, people, roles) in the area of work I’m looking into. Would you be able to:
- Free up 30 minutes to (discuss, brainstorm, provide insight, etc.)
- Make an introduction to (specific names, companies, organizations, etc.)
- Point me to someone who may be able to assist me (introduce, educate, discover, uncover, etc.)
- Suggest specific (websites, groups, companies, roles, etc.)
In addition to making your “ask”, be sure to offer to return the favor (whether directly or indirectly) by making yourself, your time, your network, or other assets you have to offer (either today or in the future) in exchange for their support.
Finding your dream job should be the beginning, and not the ending, of your networking. Once you build your network, be sure to stay engaged as well as continue to add to it over time. Being able to reach out to others and being available for others in the years ahead will lift all boats afloat across your network!
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