Networking is the single most powerful job hunting tool available. If you’re not networking, you’re not making a serious effort to advance and manage your career.
Whether you’re gainfully employed or in career transition, networking can lead to contacts (for you or your employer), and relationships that can be mutually beneficial for years to come.
Participating in networking groups can help you build confidence, as you learn to make quick connections with strangers, and introduce yourself in front of the whole group.
Ultimately, successful networking depends on being able to give before you take. Focus on providing leads, resources, or introductions to people who can help each other.
Choosing the right executive networking group
There are three basic environments in which to network, and I encourage people to use them all. The first is to network within your function, so if you are a finance professional you would attend groups such as Financial Executives International, Financial Executives Networking Group) or Toronto Finance Network. Also consider your university alumni and designation associations.
The next is to network within your specific industry, with groups such as CPG Connect or the Network of Executive Women for the commercial products industry, or industry associations such as the Project Management Institute, HRPA for human resources professionals, or IABC for professional communicators.
The third option is a more general way to network, where you’re mixing with other senior executives, but in a variety of functions and industries. One valuable networking event in the Greater Toronto Area is HAPPEN, a professional career network meeting weekly in Mississauga.
Which groups should you choose to attend? As many as possible, particularly when you are in career transition. Why wouldn’t you give yourself the best possible chance to make connections and move your career forward? You may be reluctant to network, but with only 9% of jobs advertised in Canada, you must embrace networking!
Once you’re attending regularly, take it to the next level and seek nomination to be an officer of the group. On your resume, volunteerism shows recruiters and hiring managers that you are trusted and valued by your peers, and that you’re committed to giving back.
When you can’t find a group, start your own
If you can’t find a profession-based, industry-based or general networking group to meet your needs, why not start one? This is an excellent way to become a well-known leader in your field, and generates a lot of interest and intrigue about you.
Approach a restaurant or other venue to host your meetings – most are happy for the extra income and publicity. Promote the group in your social media networks and with your personal contacts. Invite recruiters or other influencers to come and speak or network. Choose a morning, lunchtime or evening to start, and then build from there.
Tip: Before starting completely from scratch, consider opening a local chapter of a national or international group. The parent group will be able to provide additional resources, tips and promotion.
Always be networking
When you’re gainfully employed, you don’t need to attend every single group or meeting. Focus on the networking events that will bring the most value to your career goals; never curtail your networking completely as this equates to what I call career suicide. Your network is precious and valuable and should be constantly nurtured to retain momentum so when you are in career transition again, and it will happen, you are already in a good starting position.
In my experience as an executive career management coach, I have seen that people who continue networking while employed go through their next career transition about 60% faster than those who don’t. Networking has a very dramatic return on investment, which is usually more about time than money.
The most important choice when it comes to executive networking groups is the choice to attend and keep going.