Networking is an essential element of job search today. Making contacts in your circle of friends, family, and in the broader business community is your key to tapping into the hidden job market and finding those jobs that never make it to the internet postings.
While there are fewer in-person opportunities for networking during the pandemic, networking is still one of the most important career-related and job search strategies.
1. What is Networking?
- Building and maintaining relationships
- Connecting to job and/or business communities
- Exchanging advice, information, referrals, and support
- Connecting to people who may have what you want, know others who do, or play a role in the hiring decision.
2. Why Network?
Experts agree that the majority of positions are filled through networking versus the traditional methods of job search like online job boards. Networking can be an important tool for job searching and greatly increases your job search success.
3. Networking Steps
Identify Why You Are Networking. Are you researching a career, what you can do with your degree? Do you have a target industry? If you’re not sure, you can review some resources on the Career Centre website including Careers by Degree and Career Cruising (on CLNx). You can also meet with a Career Counsellor to help identify your goals.
Develop and Update Your Online Presence. The majority of people will look you up online before agreeing to meet with you. Review all of your social media accounts to make sure they represent you in a positive and professional manner. One great social media tool to use is LinkedIn. If you have a LinkedIn profile you can have it critiqued by appointment with the Career Centre. Please review our Social Media Tip Sheet.
Identify Your Current Network. You can start by thinking about who you already know who can help you. Who are the people who you can talk to any time (e.g. people that would be willing to give you advice on anything)? This could include friends, classmates, family, friends of family, employers, former employers, neighbours, professors, teachers and/or members of the clergy.
Attend Networking Events (virtual and/or in-person). Get out to connect, engage and network with people as much as possible and meet them both online and in-person. There are opportunities to attend employer-sponsored events through UTM (see the UTM Career Centre website and register for the various events on CLNx). Other opportunities include joining professional associations, joining business networking groups, and volunteering for clubs and committees. Find contacts in your target business sector or industry, and make an appointment to meet with them to obtain information about the industry or your target job (see Conduct Information Interviews section below).
Identify Potential New Contacts. The next step is to research potential new contacts with whom you would like to contact. Some excellent sources to start with are the LinkedIn Alumni Tool, Ten Thousand Coffees, University of Toronto Alumni Associations and Professional Associations
Reach Out. It’s important to be respectful and reasonable with your requests. It’s common to ask for an information interview where you get advice. An information interview is your opportunity to learn more about the contact and to get their advice for your career path and job search. Your first meeting is not a good time to ask for a job. important to craft a strong invitation and to prepare good questions before your meeting.
Conduct Information Interviews. When you ask for a formal meeting with a contact to learn more about the industry, the jobs and/or their company, this is referred to as requesting an Information Interview. Information Interviews can be extremely effective in uncovering opportunities that lead to jobs. Visit the Career Centre to learn more. See the UTM Career Centre Information Interview Tip Sheet.
Develop and Maintain Your Relationships. It’s important to work hard on your professional relationships. This includes staying in touch regularly, updating your contacts, and making the relationship mutually beneficial. This means that you aren’t only contacting someone when you want something, rather you are finding ways to help them.
Reflect. Use the information you learned to reflect on your short and long-term goals and to review your overall job search strategies often. Also, the timing of reflection is crucial, and remember to follow up with your network after your reflection for further networking.
Additional Tips for Online Networking Events
Online networking events can take some getting used to!
- Dress professionally.
- Do your best to look directly into the webcam as much as possible. You want to do your best to maintain eye contact.
- Close all programs that can distract you.
- Ensure the lights and wi-fi are working and do not have pets and children in the room during the event.
- Have a list of possible networking topics and questions on a separate document so that you can refer to it in case you forget.
UTM Career Centre Resources
- Learn to Network is one of our online workshops and Networking Events are held regularly at the UTM Career Centre.
- Book an appointment with an Employment Strategist or a Career Counsellor to plan your networking approach and practice your 30-second introduction
- Networking for People Who Hate Networking, A Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed and Disconnected by Devora Zack (2019)
- Please view the Career Centre E-Book collection using the tag “How do I Make Connections” for more resources.
Please note that this information is subject to change. It is best to refer to the original sources for the most up to date information.
Updated August 3, 2022