The job market has changed dramatically over the years. In today’s world, people rely on more than just skills and education to help them land a job or become successful. Most people recognize that their success was due to networking and maintaining professional relationships. So how does a new person with no insider connections grow his or her professional network? There are a few things you can do to foster healthy relationships with industry leaders.
1. Remain relevant in your industry
If you don’t have any friends in the industry you are transitioning into, start researching current trends or breaking news for your field. Read business magazines, follow organizations on Twitter or LinkedIn and take the time to learn about what is changing in the industry. This way you will have something to talk about when you do meet someone who is important in your desired field. If your industry has a lot of jargon and acronyms, make sure you know what those terms mean so you don’t look like a deer in headlights when someone tries to carry on a conversation with you.
Many organizations will allow you to subscribe to their newsletters to stay up to date on their products or services. Also, make an effort to read the front page news of your major newspaper daily. You will be much more versed in what issues are affecting society so you can see how your industry may be impacting people or how you can help alleviate issues in the future.
2. Continue to market yourself
Do not wait until you are out of a job to begin to market yourself. You will continue to meet people throughout your professional career, so put your best foot forward when you meet someone just like you would during a job interview. Allow yourself 20 minutes a day to browse job postings online, connect with other professionals on LinkedIn, or register for professional conferences and job fairs.
You may have landed a great job right out of college, but if you don’t continue to learn what employers expect from job candidates, then you will be starting at the bottom if you need a job in the future. Once you make connections with people in your desired industry, you can reach out to their connections and further expand your professional circle.
3. Meet up with other alumni
Don’t forget about your alma mater. If you haven’t thought about college in 10+ years, it’s time to reconnect with your college alumni. Most colleges have alumni clubs which offer events for people to grow their professional network. Since you went to the same school as everyone there, you have a topic to start off a conversation. Ask people what they are doing now and how they got to that point. You may also be helpful to them if you have worked in other industries in the past.
Don’t forget about your professors. Many people stop talking to their professors after they get their degree. Instead, ask your professor if you can connect with them on social media after you have graduated. Often they will post about relevant topics for the field they teach. Let them know you would be interested to hear from them if they hear about any jobs or internships, since many businesses reach out to professors for recommendations for future graduates. Even if the professor doesn’t have any jobs in mind, you will now be on their radar if something comes up in the future.
4. Don’t be shy
This is tough for both introverts and extroverts these days. Since most people hide behind computer screens and smart phones, many people have lost practice in actually making new friends. However, real communication in person is a great way to meet new contacts. Find meetups online for common interests, join an intramural team, or take a community education class. Making friends with new people will help build your confidence to reach out to people who would normally intimidate you. Also, even if the people you meet at social events are not in your industry, often times they will know someone else who does work in the field.