It isn't what you know, it's who you know. More people are getting their jobs through referrals. Personally, most people I know have landed at least one job in the past through someone they knew - myself included. You are constantly networking when interacting with others. You never know who could have an opportunity for you. Therefore, it is vital to know how to network for your career.
Networking is beneficial throughout your entire career. Whether you're employed or looking for work, you never know how your social interactions can benefit you. The job market is constantly changing and experiencing struggles. It isn't uncommon for people to hit career roadblocks or be out of work. Maintaining your network could mean better and faster opportunities for you.
Networking is also beneficial to a hiring company. Referrals make it easier for employers to judge a candidate for an open role. If someone they trust comes to them with a recommendation, it's easier to have confidence in that person than someone behind an online application. It cuts out recruitment time and costs and provides a mutual point of reference.
Networking also just means being in the loop. Even if you are happy with your work, it doesn't hurt to know how industries are changing and where new opportunities are. You may also find ways of turning your hobbies or interests into careers. When you network, you learn and grow.
Networking opportunities are all around you. Every interaction you have can be valuable. Your barista might in fact know of other opportunities in hospitality. The person you meet at a work function may know someone working for your dream company. The family friend at the party could be friends with an influencer of your industry.
My point is - you can never know who is in someone else's network. More often than not, people don't mind making introductions if you make a good impression. Let's look at some basic networking avenues you can access.
It's important to remember that you don't network to get a job. You also shouldn't forget someone once they've helped you out. Networking is ongoing. You must nurture your relationships by staying active and checking in. This ensures they don't forget you, and shows that you care about the relationship.
Don't make assumptions about old networks. You have no idea whether they've forgotten about you, don't care about you, or don't have time for you. Yes - we all make these assumptions. Reach out and see what happens. Suggest a catch-up over coffee. Don't set any expectations, and if they agree, have a genuine chat. Leave them with a sweet reminder of who you are and they just might think of you the next time an opportunity arises.
Ask your networks for recommendations. Show them that you care about their opinions and are willing to take on their advice. If they do have a connection, be diligent with making contact so you don't waste anyone's time. If someone goes out on a limb introducing you to someone, do your best to make a good impression. Make the connection easier by asking for an email address that you can contact to make a self-introduction.
It helps to track your interactions with people. When looking for opportunities, figure out the best way to connect with your networks. Is it best to email or call them? Note these details in a spreadsheet or journal. Whatever it is, personalize the interaction and do not expect favors. If you're an introvert, it may be easier to connect online and only commit to in-person meetings that you can prepare for.
Most importantly, don't be shy. Networking is arguably the best tool anyone has in a job search. Opportunities arise from conversations that you least expected. You could miss out on incredible career growth that wouldn't otherwise be possible just because you kept your mouth shut. Make the conversation and build your network!