Remember “Six degrees of separation”? The trick with networking is tapping into your wider network – most opportunities come this way. This means multiplying your contacts and reach by accessing your network’s network.
Mapping your network helps you to think about who you know and to prioritise who to approach.
- Create some quiet space and time to brainstorm different areas of your life in which you have contacts who might be able to help you. Be creative and think broadly!
- Consider contacts in Past and Present, together with ideas on new contacts you could develop in the Future. Here are some groupings to get you started (adapted from the excellent book Back on the Career Track):
- Past: School, university, professional training, work (colleagues, clients, suppliers, alumni groups)
- Present: Family, friends, neighbours, sports, hobbies, volunteer contacts, religious and community contacts, professional bodies, school network
- Future: Create local alumni network or job search group, volunteer, join an association
- Include all the people you know in each group. Make a rule not to rule people out. Remember to keep an open mind and approach it with curiosity – wouldn’t it be interesting to find out who people might know? Use LinkedIn to find people from your past and enlist others to remind you of people you may have forgotten about.
- Map it out in a way that works for you – it might be a spider diagram, post-it notes on a large piece of paper or a spreadsheet.
- Prioritise your 1st level contacts – those you will approach first – by creating relevant criteria such as: “Do they have relevant sector/function/technical knowledge?” “Do I think they will know a lot of other people who could help?” “Do I feel comfortable contacting this person early on?”
- Then map out 2nd and 3rd level contacts – those you will approach later. John Lees’ book Just the Job is helpful in explaining how to work out different levels of contacts.
- Your primary goal is to use your network to make useful new contacts. Approach your 1st level contacts – tell them what type of work you’re looking for, relating it to your interests, skills and experience before and during your break. Ask them if they know of anyone who might be able to offer you advice or to provide information on your area(s) of interest, and if they would be happy to make an introduction.
- With each new person you meet, ask at the end of the conversation if they could introduce you to anyone else who would be interesting to speak to.
- Create a system for tracking your progress and adding to the network as you expand your list of contacts. A spreadsheet works well at this point.
- Reward your progress – it’s better to approach several useful contacts per week than to spend hours researching on the internet with no focus. Every time you set up a call, arrange a coffee or gain a new introduction reward yourself in some sort of way that’s meaningful for you – it will take time and effort but will be of great long-term benefit not only for your first role back but in terms of your ongoing career opportunities!