Networking isn’t just a casual practice, it’s also strategic. It’s almost like choosing a team. Along with yourself, you want to have the best players on the team. Whether you’re networking for a job or in the job market already, networking is only as effective as the people you reach out to.
Who are effective connections? Generally, they are people who can give as much to you as you can give to them. Networking isn’t about knowing the most people -- it’s about knowing people that add value to your professional and personal life.
If you’re not sure where to start networking, or want to approach networking differently, here are three connections to target online or in-person:
1. Professionals Like You
You don’t have to scout for your doppelganger, but someone who interests and experiences mostly mirror your own. This is advantageous in two ways. First, you have someone, even if they’re employed, that understands the ups and downs of looking for a job in the field. You can share stories and support each other when needed. Second, you both know what sort of jobs are fit for your experience level, so you can exchange job leads or connections if a right position comes along.
Don’t worry about being competitive -- if you’re willing to forward a job lead that suits your connection really well, they’ll most likely find a way to return the favor to you.
2. Professionals In a Different Field
This may not seem advantageous, especially when looking for employment. However, when meeting people of different fields and expertise, remember one thing: You never know who people know. Those connections you’re making in the engineering industry may know key connections in the IT field you’ve been looking for.
Another reason to diversify your network? You may need help in an area that’s foreign to you. But with a few people in marketing or web development, you can get the expertise needed and do the same for them. Don’t be hesitant to make connections with all different people in different fields. All that matters, for any connection really, is that they are great at what they do.
3. A Mentor
You’ll be able to navigate your job search more intelligently and smoothly with a mentor guiding you. Other than support, mentors can dish out much needed wisdom when faced with job search or career decisions. While other career connections may fade, mentors want to see you succeed years down the road. It’s like a having an invested consultant for your future.
A mentor fit for you is someone who has taken a career path that you want and has the connections and experience needed to help you do the same. It might take one or several tries to find the right person fit to be your mentor, or you can end up having several mentors. Whatever the case, any good mentor will be someone who you respect and respects you in return.