The importance of networking when looking for your next role cannot be understated, whether you’re actively seeking a mid-to senior-level marketing or communications job in Washington, D.C. or just considering a new professional opportunity.
As many job seekers will find, especially here in the Capitol region, countless roles are not even publicly posted–and, if they are posted, it’s often simply a formality because a candidate has already been identified.
Knowing the right people at the right time can lead to your next great marketing and communications role. This is what makes networking so important. However, the key to networking is not thinking about it as only something you do when you are seeking a new role or business opportunity. Rather, networking is done on a continual basis, regardless of your current professional circumstances. It’s part of a lifestyle based on seeking, building and then maintaining relationships both personally and professionally.
If you haven’t been thinking about networking in this way before, how and where do you get started?
Foster a Relationship First
Don’t let the term “networking” intimidate you. At its core, networking is simply building great relationships both personally and professionally. It doesn’t work if you treat every relationship as a means to an end. The best networkers know that it’s a two-way street, a relationship built on mutual respect and understanding. Both parties must bring something to the table. If you go into any networking situation with the sole purpose of soliciting favors from other people, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The relationship will be far more successful if it’s created as a reciprocal connection. This doesn’t happen overnight – you have to cultivate a relationship and build rapport over time.
Practice Makes Perfect
One of the best ways to become a master networker is to keep practicing. Don’t let one bad experience or awkward event discourage you from trying again. The only way to become more confident is by doing. Actively seek out opportunities to meet new people – industry events, alumni meet-ups, association meetings, and community gatherings are good places to start. You will need to step outside your comfort zone at times. Be patient, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t feel like you are making progress. Eventually, you’ll become more comfortable, and your list of contacts will gradually blossom.
Take Your Networking Online
Although much networking is done in person, many of those connections first start online. Bolster your LinkedIn contacts by looking for new contacts in your area – friends, acquaintances, fellow alumna, and people who work at companies you are interested in are all good contacts to have in your online network. Joining industry-related LinkedIn groups can also be a great way to expand your network. Twitter is also a helpful resource for engaging with local business influencers.
Also, if you only think of networking as something that is done at industry events or in professional settings, you are missing a wealth of opportunities. Some of the best networking is done in social settings. This doesn’t mean you should treat all your social engagements as business, but it pays to be ready when an opportunity presents itself. Don’t assume you’ll remember everything – discretely write down names, details and contact information after meeting new people. Don’t forget to connect with people you meet in person to your online network whenever possible!
Ideally, once you’ve fostered a relationship, then you can seek help and advice in your career search. If you don’t currently have contacts who can directly offer assistance, ask if they can put you in touch with people who can help you. If that still leads to dead ends, it’s OK to make some bold requests. There is no harm in asking to set up an informational meeting or phone call with someone you don’t know well. People from your alma mater who work in your desired industry or company are often a great place to start. Be respectful of their time, come prepared with specific topics to discuss, and don’t ask for favors in your initial emails, calls or meetings. If they decline or you don’t receive a response, don’t be pushy. Simply thank them for considering and move on.
Maintain Your Network
A common mistake many people make is to let their network run dry. Whether you are currently looking for a new job or not, you should constantly be cultivating relationships. It becomes a lot harder to tap into your network if they haven’t heard from you in years. Remember birthdays and other important details, keep in touch with former co-workers and/or customers, offer congratulations for major life events. Staying in touch every few months – especially with your key contacts – is vital to having a network that is there when you need them. If you’ve lost touch, it’s never too late to rekindle those relationships, preferably before you are in a situation where you have to call on them to ask for a favor.
Are you ready for that next marketing or communications opportunity working for one of the Washington D.C. region’s leading companies? If so, we would love to get to know you. Our team of experienced marketing recruiters helps companies in D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia find and hire top marketing talent. View our current jobs here.