Networking in 2021: Why It’s Essential to Your Job Search Strategy and How to Do It

The year 2020 was marked by a global pandemic on a scale that hasn’t been seen in at least a century, and throughout the year chaos reigned supreme. Organizations had to change business and operational models at unheard-of speeds, and many employees were laid off or had their hours cut dramatically. The impacts were so profound and severe that many are calling it The Great Reset.

While networking has always been central to finding and landing a job, it’s more important than ever now. Jobs can be scarce, and there’s stiff competition in nearly all industries. Many people who lost their positions early in the pandemic are still seeking a permanent position and it’s estimated that there are at least 10 million unemployed Americans right now.

In many instances, job candidates are looking for remote work, but these positions get applicants from around the globe, which further increases competition. There’s an old saying: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. There’s a lot of truth in this statement, but in today’s hypercompetitive job market, it’s arguably about both what and who you know. Given this, it’s a good idea to brush up your resume and skill sets to reflect employers’ changing needs and also take some time and focus on your networking skills. Networking is done a bit differently during a pandemic, but the tips below provide a great starting point.

Be Mindful

Many business owners and hiring managers have more on their plates than ever before. It’s a great idea to reach out and see if you can connect with these decision-makers, but in a way that’s respectful and considerate of their time. If you’re trying to build new professional relationships, bring value by sharing useful information. These small actions can lead to big results.

Networking is not a one-way street. If you make it all about your own job search, you’re missing the point. It’s about building relationships. You can build relationships by paying attention to details that may be important to a business or industry. When you share information in this way, you’re making a gesture of goodwill. This type of action can serve as a foundation for a lasting and fruitful professional connection.

Take Initiative

The days of passive job hunting are over—at least for right now. Getting hired means getting recognized, and the best way to get recognized is by taking the initiative. Be the first to reach out and forge new connections. If someone agrees to meet with you, do all of the legwork before the meeting. Schedule it (based on their availability), send the invitation, and send a reminder. You’re making it easier for that person to participate even before they’ve met you. This is one of the easiest ways to make a great first impression. If you take the initiative with all of the details, they’ll likely have the impression that you’re a go-getter at work, too. First impressions are hard to change, so be sure you’re giving them a great one!

Set Goals

Anyone who has found some level of professional success understands the importance of setting goals. Employing to-do lists every day helps you meet those goals over and over again. To simply have a goal of “improving my network” likely won’t yield results. It’s too vague and doesn’t give you a starting point. When you set firm goals for networking, you have a place to start. You can start by setting a goal to meet and add two new contacts every day and increase or decrease it as needed, but making it an action item increases the likelihood that it will get done.

Seek Wisdom, But Be Open to Sharing It, Too

Remember that the end goal of networking can be to land a job, but there are many other professional benefits to expanding your professional connections. One of the best is that it allows you to learn from others. Chatting with other professionals in the same industry can help you get a better understanding of their wisdom—whether they can offer you a job or not. And who doesn’t love sharing their wisdom? Your new connection will likely appreciate the attentiveness, further enhancing their impression of you. Then, when a job does come up (whether at their company or another), it increases the likelihood that they’ll think of you for the position. Networking doesn’t always pay off immediately, but it can pay off big time in the long run if you go about it the right way.

Be Patient and Empathetic

Being patient isn’t easy, especially if you’ve been job hunting for months. You’re probably champing at the bit to move forward, but networking doesn’t always pay off in the moment. Sometimes a colleague you worked with years ago (but haven’t seen since), a random connection on LinkedIn, or a friend of a friend will be the one who leads to your next position.

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