What if we told you that building a successful industry network is as critical to job security, as building an impressive portfolio of references and work? In today’s career marketplace and worldwide, the concept of job security can be strained, and falls from an expectation for the employer to create security, back to the employee who must be agile, and ready to pivot to new opportunities when they present themselves.
This concept holds true particularly for technology and IT professionals worldwide. While it may not seem that demand exceeds supply for both tech professionals and executive leadership in the technology sector, businesses are in a virtual arms race to recruit (and then retain) key performers. The onus falls on the professional to build a private, industry network that includes former coworkers, businesses you are interested in, and leadership mentors to help guide you into growth with insights and advice.
Most professionals understand the value of building their own business network, but knowing how to get started is an obstacle. Our recruiters discuss four methods that you can grow your professional network for free, on a weekly basis.
1. Local Business Meet Up Groups
If you live in an urban center, finding a local business or entrepreneurial meet up group can be easy. The first place to look is on Facebook, as many professionals establish a group page on the social media network, rather than a website.
The second place to look for larger groups of career professionals is the social site Meetup.com. Browse the different groups per a geographical search of your area on the site, and then join the group by subscribing, to learn more about the events and professional gatherings. Don’t forget to bring your business card to the events, and add new contacts to your list; send them an email or ask them to connect with you on LinkedIn.
2. LinkedIn Social Networking
Is it any surprise that the world’s largest business to consumer, and business to business social network provides exceptional opportunities regionally, and globally? LinkedIn has evolved into an impressive social network with ample opportunities to see, and be seen by recruiters, and prospective employers. But you must know how to use it the right way, and with persistency to reap some of the benefits.
LinkedIn University provides free resources to teach professionals how to utilize the social network for business and employment purposes. We recommend downloading the infographic they provide “How to Network on LinkedIn: Get Connected to Get Your Career Going,” which is a checklist of ten fundamental ways that you can grow your network online. One of the most valuable secrets to networking on LinkedIn, is to create a discussion group, and invite other professionals to join, share articles, insights and industry news.
3. Call a Former Colleague and Get in Touch
Remember those solid team relationships that you built with previous co-workers? Just because you aren’t working with them any more, does not mean that you can’t reach back and connect for mutual benefit. Name five former colleagues that you had a strong connection with, and research them on LinkedIn. If they are still employed within the same industry, send them a message or use the LinkedIn chat message feature to invite them to catch up.
If you are able to connect to former colleagues, remember to add them to your LinkedIn profile. Have you received a reference from the co-worker? If not, it’s an excellent opportunity to ask them if you can leave them a review on LinkedIn, and endorse them on key skills. You’ll see posts and comments you share on LinkedIn, and it’s a great way to stay in touch.
Becoming visible in your community remains an effective way to build a positive reputation, and volunteering is a great way to do good for others, and for your career, as it puts you in direct contact with other industry professionals. The key is to find a charity that is personally meaningful, but also one that is related by some degree, to your profession.
Underemployed workers can boost employment opportunities through volunteerism, simply by telling others about the type of work and employer they are looking for. Organizations also value volunteer service, so don’t forget to add your experience to your LinkedIn profile and enhance your CV with relevant volunteer experience.
The key to building a large professional network is to be persistent. Networking isn’t something you achieve and then rest on; it is an activity that is constant, and one that is a habit to the most successful industry leaders and entrepreneurs. Consider creating a business card for your portfolio, and provide contact information. If you meet someone you’d like to relate to (but you do not have an official business card) give them a card, and a valuable tool to stay in touch.