How to Network Your Way Into a New Career

Today’s post is written by C.K. Adams who has worked in the newspaper and publishing field since 2003. Specializing in education, her published work focuses on career advice, counseling and college help. 

Networking is one of the best ways to find a job. In fact, 60% of job seekers who reached out to their immediate networks were able to find employment within one month of initial contact. Networking doesn’t always have to be a stretch outside of your comfort zone.
You can find plenty of people who are already on your friends’ list, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. You simply have to be the one to make contact and commit to finding a referral from someone in your circle. You can change into a new career simply by looking for help among those whom you already know.

Here is how to network your way into a new career.

Make the Connection

Networking has to be sparked by you to make the first contact. You can develop contacts through friends, neighbors, family, college alumni and people by association. There’s the direct approach, just emailing and asking for a lead, or you can try a less direct approach and ask for information or advice. You should keep this message friendly and informal, not pushing for too much but rather light and breezy. You should be the one to make contact, whether it’s calling someone on the phone or simply sending a message over Facebook. You should be making these kinds of calls every day to reach as many people as possible.
On a recent segment of NPR, it was suggested that once a week you reach out to people currently working the kind of job you desire: be that through a cold email, networking, or currently existing connections.
Ask them what it took for them to get where they are today. How they feel about their current job, and where they would suggest you start. They suggest strongly working to meet one person in your dream position each month and by the end of the year even if you don’t have the job you desire you have a strong network of people already working in that field.

[Related Post: The 5 Steps to Networking Effectively in Your Job Hunt]

Talk About Yourself

When you network, you do have to have confidence in yourself and your abilities to be able to tell others about who you are and what you can do. You should practice beforehand doing informal interviews and making a list of your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to your profession.
When you do make contact, you can even use a strategy of asking for the contact’s opinion on a piece of work that relates to the job you desire which you recently finished.
This will allow them to see your capabilities, and then you can mention that you need advice on where to look for a job or what places might be hiring that your contact knows. When you do have to talk about yourself, always be humble about your achievements but be able to explain your highlights to show that you have valuable skills and experience.

After You Make the Connection

Your contact may have been direct enough to get you a lead right away. If not, you should still talk to them through Facebook or e-mail, just keeping it friendly and informal. It’s important to make friends with those who work in the field that you want to work.
That way, if a job does open up, you’ll be one of the first people who they think of. You should also attend events with friends, family, alumni and peers so that you can continue to grow your personal connections. By accepting these invitations, you get to know your contacts better and you may also meet new people.

Follow Up

Remember to keep a list of whom you have contacted and when you contacted them. You don’t want to become a nuisance. If you have made all the attempts to contact within your circle, thank them in writing for any referrals or information that they give to you.
You can always send your business card if you’re in sales or even offer some free consulting work if they truly helped you land a job. It’s important to remember who helped you in your network and continue to pay it forward, even after you score the big job.

Other Networks to Consider

If you are currently studying in college, then you have a complete college network through your friends, teachers, classmates and department administrators. You can start talking to your teachers about your career aspirations and see what they suggest.
You should reach out to those around you in college, such as mentors, alumni, and advisors. You could find that a teacher has an alumni database and may be able to search for a contact near you that also wants to work in your field.

[Related Post: The Top 10 Informational Interview & Networking Questions]

Perception is Still Key

The key to networking is your social skills. You have to be able to talk about your situation with friends and family while still talking about your strengths and experience. Also, it may be hard for those in your current network to see you changing into a different career, so you may have to show your experience with sample work or a current project.
When done correctly, reaching out to your current contacts expands your current network and places you one step closer to referrals with the power to give you an interview.

How have you used your current network to change careers?

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