Career Futures Series
Networking Making and using contacts for help and advice
The advice in this publication is designed to help you plan your job search strategy. Think about what you have read, turn it into action points and implement them. Good luck!
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Futures Team, University of Central Lancashire Reviewed 2011/Version 5
Introduction to Networking “Sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know” Many jobs, possibly the majority, are never advertised which makes networking a vitally important tool for any jobseeker. In fact, successful networking can be the key to effective career building throughout your working life.
What is networking? Networking is about developing a list of contacts who can help and advise you. Be prepared to give as well as to receive as networking is most successful when both parties gain from the experience.
What can you gain from networking?
Better access to suitable opportunities, including both paid and unpaid work experience, work shadowing and actual jobs;
The chance to research your chosen career area and gain useful insights from an insider;
Tips on how to strengthen your applications for that particular sector;
In-depth knowledge of potential employers;
Recommendations on where to look for vacancies and information;
Introductions to other contacts who might be able to help you.
Where to start? Think about your current network of contacts: family; friends; neighbours; fellow students; tutors; work colleagues (past and present). Each person in your network has a network of their own. The art of networking is to establish whether they have contacts they can introduce you to, and to start to develop and nurture mutually rewarding relationships with those contacts.
Map out your existing network and expand on it by adding any other contacts you can think of.
Try to keep some sort of diary of contacts, making sure that you create either an electronic or paper based address book with the names and contact details of each person in your current network.
Add a short note about the individual to remind you of what they do i.e. what type of work – paid/unpaid, any community links they may have etc.
Make a note to remind yourself of how you met them e.g. a charity event, conference, guest speaker at a lecture, night out, on the train etc. This will help you to remember them, particularly if the meeting was a one-off.
Try to record anything unique about that person that you can use, in the future, as a conversation opener. Use something that will show that you are interested in them and not just out for what you can get e.g. if they told you that they were in the process of setting up a business ask them how it is going.
How to identify contacts You already have contacts but always be ready to add to your list. Here are some ideas to help fill out your address book:
Tutors and the Futures Centre hold information on where UCLan graduates have found work in the past;
The UCLan alumni association is well worth checking out – www.uclan.ac.uk/alumni
Relevant professional bodies may have regional advisers and/or organise/publicise events;
Industry yearbooks, local council industrial directories, Yellow Pages can help you to target potential employers;
Attend careers and jobs fairs – as advertised on www.uclan.ac.uk/futures and www.prospects.ac.uk;
Join university clubs and societies;
Get involved in voluntary work – contact UCLan’s Volunteer Coordinator, within the School for Communities, Rights and Inclusion or search on www.do-it.org.uk for opportunities;
Check out social networking websites. The rules of old-fashioned networking apply and prohibit directly asking a new contact for a job when networking on Twitter, or using Facebook and internet groups for career-related purposes. However, by ‘following’ people (to use the Twitter terminology) who are involved in a business sector, you can gain insights into that work, contribute your own comments and begin to get known.
How to plan your campaign You need to be organised to succeed. Decide what you want from each contact – do not ask for a job straight away, people will be more receptive to a request for help or advice. Most people are sympathetic and willing to talk about themselves and their own career path. Assess what method of approach – letter, phone, email, face-to-face – suits your style best but be ready to adapt to different situations:
Start with people you have a direct link or introduction to – they’re more likely to help and this will build your self-confidence
Always have a named person in mind
Do your homework – they will be more impressed if it is obvious that you have researched the career area, the company and found out what you can about them in advance
Explain clearly and concisely why you are contacting them and how you got their name
Practise introducing yourself
Prepare your agenda and questions
Emphasise that you only expect them to spare 10 or 15 minutes of their time
If they are unable to help, ask if they can suggest anyone else
Make a note of any action points
Write and thank everyone who helps
A certain amount of rejection is inevitable – don’t be easily discouraged
If you arrange to meet a stranger take sensible precautions. To look at issues of disclosing disability, read the Futures booklet ‘Disclosing Disability’ or go to the Skill website (www.skill.org.uk) where there is an information sheet and a booklet ‘Get that Job’ which includes the issue of disclosure.
Final tips Don’t be a pest but do try to keep in touch with the occasional phone call, email, postcard or meeting. Networking is a lifelong strategy that is useful in all areas of your existence – you never quite know when you’ll be glad that you made the effort to keep in touch! Most people will be flattered that you have asked for help if you approach them in the right way. What have you got to lose – they can only say no! At some point you may be approached – do unto others…. The Futures website contains a range of careers booklets, offering advice and tips to help you, at www.uclan.ac.uk/careersbooklets. You can also find information on the site about relevant events, elective modules and the Futures Award. You might also want to check out the recorded online events, covering a number of topics at www.uclan.ac.uk/futuresondemand
If you would like further help or want to speak to a careers adviser please call at Futures Reception, ring us or use our e-guidance system on the Futures website to email us with queries.