Are you currently looking for a job? Or maybe thinking about a career change? Over the years I have learned that one of the most important things you can do for yourself is build and maintain networks, both on and offline. And not only when you need or want a new job, but constantly. You may never know when you will need a new job, and networking can lead to unexpected opportunities that you would otherwise never know about.
But what is networking anyway? Networking is fundamental in career planning and looking for jobs. The main idea is to get your name out there and connect with as many decision-makers as possible. When it comes time to look for a new job, think of networking as your competitive edge. Networking is a tool, and a powerful one at that, which opens doors to opportunities that you probably would otherwise never know existed.
Networking is definitely a skill. Although I understand the importance of networking, I by no means am very good at it. But I’m trying. And I know I have to keep working at it so it can open up options when the day comes that I will need a new job, and the day will come. Now-a-days online social networking is just as important, if not more important, than offline networking. And I’m not only talking about Facebook. As a matter of fact, the most important website for professional networking is LinkedIn.
First off, if you have never used LinkedIn, create a profile immediately (well, after you finish reading this post). Once you create a profile, add a picture of yourself and find all of the people you know, both personally and professionally, and connect with them. This will be a great start. You can also connect with me here.
Next, write a summary that highlights your professional capabilities. If you already have a summary section on your resume, just copy and paste it onto your LinkedIn profile. Although you can write a paragraph or two, I suggest keeping the summary section to bullet points. This makes it easier for someone, such as a recruiter, to scan your profile quickly. As they say, time is money, so make it easy for them.
The next thing you want to do is to list your work experience, starting with the most current job. I suggest to make sure that this section matches your resume, with dates and all. Then add some skills and education and you are well on your way. There are a lot of other sections you can add to your profile, such as interests, certifications, and awards. Add anything you would like that is applicable, but remember, keep it professional. Getting your LinkedIn profile right will not happen on your first try, but you have to start somewhere. View some profiles from people with similar job experience to get some ideas.
Once you have a LinkedIn profile, join some groups. Find groups with similar shared interests. Joining groups is probably the most important thing you can do on LinkedIn. After you have joined some groups, start connecting with people within the group, preferably people that are in the same industry as you and have the same or similar job titles.
Have fun connecting with people on linkedIn. You are well on your way to building a network.