While you may or may not always be on the job market, it is not only important to make connections, but to maintain connections with your network that you have made. Your network as a whole should be different from a “friend group”. Your network should have people that you have worked with, people that you have met through professional means (networking, conferences, etc), and individuals that you want to be like. What makes a good network? I believe that the best quality of your network is not quantity, but quality. It is tempting to connect with every individual in your company on LinkedIn and most times those individuals will connect with you, but what good does this do for you? If somebody asked one of these random connections what your best qualities are, they will likely respond with “not a clue”.
So, who should you network with and why? Off the bat, you should connect/network with your current team/department and past teams/department. You have worked close with this group of individuals and staying connected with these individuals (whether personally or through an online networking tool such as LinkedIn) will allow you to stay up to date with your past lab mates or team members career developments . If you worked in a similar department, staying connected can help you see various career trajectories of your colleagues without doing much research on your part.
If you are completely new to your field or you are entering the job force after completing educational training, who should you connect with? The best way to make these connections is reaching out to individuals on LinkedIn who have careers that you are interested in. If you want to learn more with who you should/how you should reach out, check out our article on “Using LinkedIn to create your brand and network”.
If you put the time in to making connections through LinkedIn you will find yourself with an arsenal of connections on LinkedIn. Like any social media website, it is important to stay engaged on the professional networking platform. This doesn’t necessarily mean posting content every day. It is important to not “spam” your network. Instead, consider creating and posting content as well as liking and celebrating posts made your network members. This can lead to a potential gateway to conversations. Another way to stay engaged with your network is to schedule in person or virtual one on one check-ins with members that you would like to create deeper connections with such as professional mentorship relationships. If your connections are local, grab a coffee or a beer. If they are more distant, schedule a quick zoom meeting and have a virtual coffee or lunch meeting.
Having face-to-face contact, whether in person or online, builds a stronger relationship with your connections. If you are anything like me, it may be hard to continue to reach out to individuals online. Tools like Refer.com can allow you to track your contacts and remind you to reach out to specific individuals based on time periods you set. Depending on the type of contact, this should determine how often you should try to engage with them. Also remember to be respectful of your contacts schedules.
An article posted in the Wall Street Journal titled “Take your search for a job offline” states that 80% of job openings are never publicly advertised. Many times your connections on LinkedIn will know of employment opportunities so staying connected could enable you to be a VIP in learning about a position before the opportunity goes out to the public. Following up with connections over the years, pruning current contacts, and maintaining vibrant relationships can give you an edge when looking for employment opportunities. However, don’t treat your network solely as “what they can do for you” and a one-way relationship, but try to think of value you can provide to your connections. In a recent article published in Harvard Business Review, the authors dive into the importance of maintaining professional relationships including listening to your members and what they need. This could be as simple as sharing a connection’s post if they are looking for something, or even providing your own expertise in a subject matter. Provide this service to your network without requiring something from your network.
What’s the take-away message from this article? Make meaningful and helpful connections via social media, and engage with these contacts over the years. Share your successes, your insights, and thoughts. Take time to help others and don’t be afraid to ask for help yourself. Now, go back to your social media platform and take some of this advice. Happy Networking!