Job Search 101: How to Network and Gain References

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How do you network and gain valuable references as you move throughout your career?

Let’s face it, networking events that turn into friendly chatter over drinks can be over-rated for the average job-seeker looking to connect with others in their community.  Networking events have gotten a bad rap in the past for not really turning into anything.  Add in the fact that you may think by showing up at one of these events that someone is going to offer you your dream job the moment they meet you – and we have already set ourselves up for an underwhelming experience.

Not to fear, networking events don’t have to be a bummer and can be quite fun if you find the right ones for you and find the people you connect with the most.  So what can you do to network effectively and meet people who have similar interests?

How to Network

1. Attend with no expectations

Are you expecting to show up to a networking event after work on a Wednesday evening and put in a two-week notice with your current employer the next morning?  Try again.  If you want a new job and want it fast, go to a career fair, not a networking event.  Instead of thinking about what you can get out of the networking event, think about what you can provide.

2. Build a relationship with someone

Find someone you don’t know and get to know them.  Ask them questions about themselves and their life.  Who knows, maybe you have mutual friends or a lot in common.  This is a great way to meet people, without putting any pressure on them about seeing if they can help you get a leg ahead in your career.

3. Help others

You are attending a networking event and so are others.  Why not see what you can do to help someone else?  Maybe they are looking for a new opportunity and you have a friend you can connect them with.

While scheduled networking events are common what is described above, what about attending other events that don’t have the “networking connotation” attached to them?  Yes, I’m talking about scrolling through your local event board or finding events on Facebook that you are interested in!  Maybe you want to learn how to paint or are looking for a free yoga class.  While these are classified as events and don’t necessarily involve networking, you might have a much better experience meeting others and connecting with people at events that interest you.  What about joining a league?  If you like to play volleyball, why not join a volleyball league and meet some like-minded people that you can then begin to use as your network?  This is much easier and less stressful than trying to attend a specific job networking event.

Getting References

While some online job applications no longer require references to be submitted, it’s still a good idea to submit them.  This will give an employer more confidence in your work history and ability to make connections.  But what if you lack professional references in the job reference department?  It’s tough to ask your current boss to be a reference, and we don’t recommend this unless it is a special circumstance.  Who else can you ask?  How about friends?  Your friends with professional jobs who know you well would be a good place to start.

How about former co-workers who worked or operated under you?  Not all references have to be higher in the chain of command and having a reference to validate that you are a good manager, and enjoyable to be around could be the difference in getting you your next opportunity.

What about acknowledging your current co-workers with endorsed skills on LinkedIn?  I bet if you said something positive about your co-workers on LinkedIn they may be willing to return the favor.  While this may not provide a direct reference on your resume, it does endorse you as a qualified individual on LinkedIn, which will come in handy when a recruiter is checking your social media accounts.

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