Building a net that will work in your favour
Networking involves more than collecting business cards and can build opportunities beyond just putting your face to a name, CareerOne Editor Cara Jenkin discovers.
MORE people are pursuing networking as a form of finding a new job and learning new skills to develop their careers as well as building their professional contact base, new research finds.
The ways in which professionals network also is growing, as technology creates new ways to social network and changing business demands encourages workers to look for a cutting edge.
Online business advisory Flying Solo Micro Business Community’s annual Understanding Micro Business Survey 2010-2011 finds Australian workers are attending networking functions more often now than three years ago.
Almost two-thirds of workers, or 61 per cent, network at least every quarter, compared to 57 per cent in 2008. One-quarter of workers are networking once a month, up from 23 per cent in 2008, while attending weekly and fortnightly network events has increased from 6 per cent to 7 per cent of workers.
Networkers are doing so to increase their skills and knowledge base (71 per cent), make contacts to support the business (68 per cent), develop business leads (56 per cent) and stay connected with people in business in general or their industry (42 per cent).
There has been a decrease in the proportion of workers wanting informal, unstructured networking opportunities, from 43 per cent in 2008 to 40 per cent in 2011, though it still is the most preferred option.
Online forums have recorded the biggest increase in participation from 11 per cent three years ago to 15 per cent this year.
Using online networking and forums to find a new job also has experienced a dramatic increase in the past three years, with 43 per cent of workers now doing so, compared to 27 per cent in 2008.
The vast majority, or 85 per cent, also rely on word of mouth for new employment opportunities.
Career Consultancy director Catherine Cunningham says when the word networking is mentioned, most people think of sipping champagne at a business function and exchanging business cards.
She says it is a valid form of networking but can have a low return on the investment because it can take many meetings and a long time before strong connections are made.
Network meeting is a new way in which workers can explore information without having an agenda of committing to a career option, asking for a job, changing industries or drumming up new business.
Networkers arrange a face-toface meeting with a potential contact to ask for advice. Ms Cunningham says it provides an effective means of finding out about the culture of an organisation and can offer vital information, which can prevent poor career choices.
‘‘Employees who use job search networking first meet up with an acquaintance, explain clearly their job search strategy and ask for further contacts who might give beneficial advice,’’ she says.
‘‘The next stage is to phone this unknown contact to ask for a short meeting to, once again, ask their advice on their job search strategy.
‘‘When it is done correctly, each individual meeting with a new contact either results in a job offer or the referral to another contact who either offers a job or refers another stranger.’’
Workers develop strong presentation skills as they attend meetings and their confidence can grow, which helps personal development.
‘‘An added advantage of using job search networking is that very few Australians are aware of it or of how to do it well,’’ she says.
‘‘Employees who have the courage to embark on this activity are well and truly ahead of the pack.’’
Another favoured form of net-