Bestselling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.
If there's a bit of career advice you've heard over and over, it's that networking is the best way to get a job. But what we seldom hear is exactly how to network.
Networking isn't just about knowing people. The value lies in who those people are, what you hope to gain from a relationship with them and what you intend to offer them in return. No matter how early it might be in your career, think about and decide where you want your career to go, then work backwards to identify the stepping stones you'll need to get to that goal.
You can know influential people in your profession, but the relationship you have with them is what's important. And you can't build those relationships without meaningful conversations moving those relationships forward.
Consequently, the people who land the best opportunities fastest and with greatest ease do so because they have built solid professional relationships that are based on knowing, learning from and helping those people who can best influence their careers. Their resumes can reflect these relationships.
Your Resume Powers Your Social Media Presence
Managing your professional networks with a robust and properly focused social media presence is one of the most powerful methods for managing your career destiny. Your social media presence represents how you think of yourself as a professional and how you present yourself to your working world.
Defining your professional persona starts with writing the right resume. Your resume will form the basis not only of your job hunts but also the social media presence through which you become known to your professional community.
In building your resume, don't try to make yourself the perfect choice for multiple jobs. When you try to squeeze all the things you can do into one resume, the resulting resume will lack focus and will be found less frequently in recruiters' resume database searches. Focusing on one job (or sometimes two very closely related jobs) will make your resume dense in the necessary keywords necessary to be discovered in database searches. Your social media profile should reflect much the same information.
The Best Networking Contacts
Networking is more than just knowing people; it's developing mutually beneficial relationships. These are the types of people who can be of most value in your professional network:
- Anyone who works in your profession is a good contact, but of greater value are people who work in either your particular area of responsibility or an area of expertise that your job interacts with on a regular basis.
- Even better potential networking colleagues are people who,work in your specialty or one closely related to it and who hold job titles one, two or three levels above yours. These are the people most likely to be involved in hiring someone like you.
You can meet all these people at local SHRM chapter meetings and in online groups.
With online groups you can, of course, reach out and ask to connect with anyone else in that group. Of more value, is watching conversation threads, and, when you see someone from one of your networking target groups post a neat comment, clicking "like" and posting a pleasant reply: "That's a very interesting thought. Thanks." A day or two later, send them a note thanking them for their comment and asking if you can connect.
As someone new in the profession, you shouldn't give advice but instead curate good comments you've seen elsewhere. Post something like: "We're all busy, so if you didn't see this on the SHRM website (add a link to an article or resource), it's well worth a read." You'll get some group members posting comments and likes for your efforts, and then you can ask them to connect. Do this on a weekly basis (plus attend your monthly SHRM chapter meeting) and within a year you'll have a truly valuable network.
Have a question for Martin? E-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!