There's an old expression around careers and hiring that says, “It's not what you know but who you know.” The advent of social media has changed the game of building a professional network. Our networks now span farther and more extensively than ever before, allowing us to virtually connect with people we may not yet have met in person, but with whom we potentially have an opportunity to exchange professional value.
This shift has proven to be highly beneficial for job seekers. As any hiring manager or job seeker will tell you, making connections and gaining insights from the people who know or may be connected to a prospective employer will allow you to gain deeper insights into a prospective employer. Learning about the employer prior to making direct contact gives you tremendous advantageous over the sea of other job applicants.
It is commonly understood that referrals and word of mouth are key factors in landing a new role, but it's not enough to simply exchange business cards or connect on LinkedIn. In order to maximize the value of your connections it is essential that you proactively build, nurture and maintain strong relationships with people in your industry and function.
Up until early 2020, the best way to start building connections was through regular attendance at networking events. While COVID-19 has a hold on the world, none of us are likely to attend any breakfast networking sessions any time soon. However, there are plenty of techniques and methods we can use to find and nurture connections virtually.
Here are five steps you can take to boost your profile and build your professional network.
1. Listen to what your network is saying. The newsfeeds of your chosen social platforms are rich with information from your network. This is where you learn about hot topics your network is discussing and stay up to date with any key trends you should be aware of as you navigate the job market. Build trust and foster collaboration by commenting on OP, reacting, sharing and replying to commenters.
2. Share knowledge and offer value. Once you've started making yourself known it's important that you keep your connections engaged. One of the best ways to do this is to share relevant content of your own. Share insights about how you work, your thoughts on the industry or the value of your skill set. This is a sure-fire way to impress and engage the right people. Great examples of shareable content include industry reports, research you have found that your network will value, and articles you have read from specialist publications.
3. Be a hub for other connections. If you can facilitate introductions between mutual connections, then you immediately place yourself in a strong position as a connector and someone who provides value to others. You may be connected to people who could prove valuable to others. And, providing a great introduction will motivate the recipient to adopt a similar mindset and make it a habit to do the same.
4. Remember your manners. Acknowledge helpful actions of others when they offer you useful information or advice. Remember to thank anyone who endorses you on LinkedIn or other platforms. If someone has offered some advice or introduced you to a great contact that led to a helpful conversation, an interview or career opportunity, continue to build and strengthen your relationship and let them know how things have progressed and show your gratitude.
5. Be part of a community. Understand that people in your industry/job role/area of expertise who you may view as a competitor for a job are often in the exact same position as you are—they are overcoming the same obstacles and learning valuable lessons. Connecting and forming a community with these people (either loosely or through private groups on platforms like WhatsApp, Slack, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook) will be nothing but beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, they're a source of advice and a community in which to share your experiences. Secondly, each member of the community will have their own connections. These can open doors to reach many more people and job opportunities than you would be able to on your own.
Keep these steps in mind and you'll find yourself better connected than ever before. Nurturing these connections and staying involved in the scene requires constant effort. However, when it comes to making your next career move, do it right and the return on investment will be huge.