When you are starting out in your career, it is embarrassing to ask the people around you for work. It feels awkward. So how do you sell yourself and your career goals, without selling out?
Let me give you a personal example. Angie was the mother of a high school friend. I hadn't spoken to her in a few years and had no idea what she did for a living. I had just started night school, the topic was interesting and complemented my existing skills perfectly. So when she asked what I'd been up to I excitedly told her about my classes.
It turns out, Angie worked in the same industry and had more work than she could handle. Within six months I was awarded three short-term positions on her recommendation, some resulting in lasting professional relationships.
Do we have to call it networking?
I hate the word 'networking'. 'Networking' brings to mind visions of uncomfortable small talk and blowing my own trumpet to boring people in suits. Despite the negative connotations, networking is something all of us do every day. We speak to people on the street; we use social media to interact with friends and strangers; we socialize in the bar with friends. So don't worry if the idea of networking makes you skin crawl, chances are you've been doing it without even noticing.
Catch the enthusiasm
As I said at the beginning, some of the best jobs I have ever had came from simply discussing my career plan enthusiastically with acquaintances. At the time, I had no idea they could be a useful connection however one passionate conversation in a parking lot led to not one but three job offers! All of a sudden acquaintances became my network simply by being myself and being enthusiastic about the career path I had started.
You don't need to be selling yourself to discuss your passions. Whether you are talking to an acquaintance in the street, posting on Facebook or on the phone to Great Aunt Joan, always be enthusiastic about the career you've chosen, the kind of job you want, and the skills you are learning to achieve your goals. Be excited about this new phase in your life and others will catch your enthusiasm.
Don't be selfish
While it's great to gush about your new-found life path, remember communication is a two-way street. Ask questions of the people around you, discover their dreams. You never know what opportunities will arise if you learn how to be a good listener. Ask yourself, how can I help this person?
It's not cool to put pressure on people to help you on your career path. All you need to do is show enthusiasm when discussing your chosen career path and be open to looking for experience in the field. If someone mentions a job or an opportunity, follow it up
Extend your network
Here are just a few ways you could extend your network and increase your skills at the same time.
- Join a club. It doesn't matter what you join, provided you make a consistent commitment. Join committees, organize events. Get involved and be polite, you'll meet people in no time.
- Get experience. Volunteering, work placements and externships are not just good ways to get on-the-job experience. They are also a great way to meet people, often in the very industry you have chosen for your career path.
- Attend events. Some industries have specific networking events, career fairs, and general meet-up groups. The Destination Work Dallas registration event is a great place to get started. See details on the CCI Training Facebook Page
- Join student groups. You never know where your fellow students will end up. Get to know people you are studying with, even if it is just online. The new Facebook Group Career Spotlight with CCI Training is the perfect place to start a discussion with people with similar goals to you.