In career terms networking is simply about creating opportunities to gather information. In addition, it can help you to access the ‘hidden job market’ of unadvertised vacancies which may represent half of all the posts which are filled each year – for example through speculative applications, word of mouth and internal adverts. To network successfully it’s important to think about identifying your network and making effective use of your network.
Making effective use of your network
You can use your network to:
- Get an insider’s view on a profession or industry
- Find out who the employers are in a specific industry
- Get help identifying any gaps in your skills or experience
- Get advice on your CV
- Find out when and where vacancies are advertised
- Learn what to expect at interview in an unfamiliar industry
Successful networking may also lead to:
- Getting a chance to work shadow
- An internship opportunity
- Find out about a job opening
Identifying your network
Social media: Sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter can be a great way of generating and researching ideas. LinkedIn allows you to join groups of interest where you can connect with people in specific industry sectors and often hear about job opportunities (e.g. groups I’m part of include University of Edinburgh alumni, Life Sciences Scotland and PhD careers outside of academia). Most universities have an alumni group on LinkedIn which can be a good way of connecting with people across the world who may be willing to share insights into career areas which interest you, so don’t forget other universities you have studied at before coming to Edinburgh. Twitter is also being used increasingly by specific employment sectors to advertise jobs (e.g. in publishing) and is a good way of keeping up to date with news and views in industries which interest you.
Family and friends: We often don’t consider networking with our own families. Siblings, uncles and aunts, cousins, friends, friends of friends, and parents know many people. They can have been in the world of work for a while; probably went to school with some interesting people and may have friends you may not be aware of who work in a field which interests you, and may have connections internationally. Start tapping in to your family and friend’s easily accessible expertise. Remember, you are not asking them for a job, you are just asking for a bit of time and information.
Academic and other staff: Most of your colleagues are well-connected in their fields and many keep in contact with past students and researchers who are now at work. Get in touch with researchers in your area who have moved on and identify other possible contacts through colleagues in your Unit/Centre/School and/or elsewhere (e.g. at conferences).
Careers Service: We maintain links with a large range of professionals who are willing to be consulted by students and recent graduates about their career. These contacts are local professionals in the Edinburgh area as well as Edinburgh University alumni working throughout the world. Our Career Contacts database is available via our website (search for career contacts).
Careers Fairs and company presentations: These are organised by the Careers Service throughout the year. These are often a useful opportunity to speak with company representatives. If you find it is not possible to talk at the time, then you could ask for contact details and arrange a time when the person would be available later to speak with you either in person or on the phone. You can find out what’s on by looking at the events section of our website.
Other sources of information/contacts may come from; Company Websites, Annual Reports, Other Company Literature, Library Reference Material and articles in the media or specialist journals. You can use these to identify people working in areas of interest and try building your network by contacting them. I’m constantly surprised as a careers adviser the number of positive responses I get when contacting people I don’t know to find out about career-related issues.
So remember, networking is not about getting a job because of who you know. It’s simply about using people as a resource to help you with your career research and planning. So build your network in ways you are comfortable and make use of it. If you don’t other people will be!