How Anyone Can Build a Network in 3 Easy Steps

So you’re unhappy in your job and plan to start looking for a better opportunity. You know that to succeed in your job search you need to have a good network, but you’ve never liked meeting new people and you’ve let a lot of professional relationships slide. Or you may be just starting your career and feel like you don’t know anybody who can help in your search.

It’s not unusual to think that you have to “be connected” through your family and friends in order to have a solid network. But actually, I’ve found that anyone can build and nurture a network, with or without help from their closest ties. Here’s how:

1. If you went to college (and even if you didn’t graduate), your classmates and alumni are a ready-made network just waiting for you to reach out. Search for them on LinkedIn where you can narrow your search by sector and location. For example, if your college was in Ohio and you now live in Boston, you can search for alumni who live in Boston only. You can do this yourself or you can try asking your college career office for a list of alumni, sorted by sector and location.

A note before getting started: The more connections you have on LinkedIn, the bigger and better your search results will be. So reach out to anyone and everyone you’ve ever met to grow your LinkedIn network. And whenever possible, send a personalized connection request.

2. If you were a member of a fraternity, club sports team or interest group in college, you have a national network ready to help. Greek affiliation in particular can be as strong as school spirit if not stronger, regardless of graduation year. So again, using LinkedIn, narrow your search to include your fraternity brothers (or sorority sisters) from every school and year, in the cities where you’re concentrating your job search.

3. Think about how your Facebook groups can be helpful. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can post an inquiry in one or two groups where networking is commonplace. When you reach out, make sure you ask for specific help. Instead of throwing a lot of detail at your audience, or indicating that you are “open to anything”, provide 2-3 job titles and up to 10 companies, and ask your contacts if they know anyone at those companies. Anything more can be overwhelming and you will end up with a meaningless response like, “I’ll let you know if I hear of anything”. You can also send individual emails if that is more your style.

These are just a few ideas for growing your contact base as you embark upon your job search. What have you tried? I’d love to hear from you.

Allison Cheston is a New York City-based career advisor with a background in marketing, branding, executive search, curriculum development and cross-cultural communication. She helps executives and young adults identify their unique value in the marketplace and explore roles and organizations that best fit their talents and interests, and then positions them to get the job.

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