Map your network
Many graduates get their first job through their contacts, so it’s important to be ready to use them. When you nurse your contacts, they evolve into relations. The good relation might be what makes someone remember you and put in a good word for you – or informs you of a good job opportunity.
Before you jump into building your network, it might be a good idea to spend some time mapping it first. It will give you an overview of your contacts and where you can strengthen them and make new ones.
Your network consists of both personal and professional contacts
Your personal contacts
Many people forget to think of their uncle, friend, or mother as part of their network. But your personal contacts also have a work-life, free time, and their network of contacts that they can activate to help you with something.
Maybe your best friend’s mom works in the area of business you are interested in. Tell her that you are curious to know more about her job and invite her out for coffee. Many people will agree to that willingly, especially when you show them interest.
Your professional contacts
At the same time, you probably already have a few contacts through your professional life – your studies, your part-time job, or your involvement in various activities – which you can lean on whilst job hunting or other things you need feedback or advice on.
Maybe you have a good relationship with your employer from your current or former student job. Don’t be nervous to ask for a meeting about the possibility of continuing working for the organization. Maybe your employer knows somebody who has a job opening. Show interest and be open-minded about the opportunities that comes along.
Cultivate your peripheral contacts too – also the ones who aren’t like you
The optimal network is a mix of both personal and professional relations, that you cultivate the close and peripheral relations, and think of the contacts around you that are both like and unlike you.
We tend to cultivate our close relations because we feel safe with them. That is your primary network. It’s fine to start practicing your networking skills by seeking information and help from your primary contacts. But you should also consider reaching out to your peripheral contacts even though you don’t know them well. The more people you know, the more opportunities will arise.
Think about how much your network is like you. Your fellow students from your study, friends with the same interests as you, or someone from your job, will likely be very similar to you. It feels safe, and you can use each other to cultivate your network, which most likely consists of people you already know. It can end up being a very closed network, which can be difficult to get new input from. If everyone you know are like you, where should you get new knowledge and input from?
You can work on creating a diverse network. Why? Because people with different knowledge, background, and experience will typically have a network that you might not be a part of. They can also supplement you with competences and input, which you do not have.
How to map your network
1. Create a mind-map of your network, e.g. like the one below:
2. Write down the names of the people you know from different fields (are you connected on LinkedIn?)
3. Think of people they know that would be interesting for you to get to know in relation to your job search
4. Look at the names on your list – both your network and your network’s network. Who would be able to help in your job search? What will you do now to make use of the opportunities? How will you get to know new people or nurse the relations you already have? Get help on how to invite to coffee meetings.
How you can also map your network
Find the method that suits you the best. Instead of making a mind-map you can make a chart, where you collect the different types of contacts and get an overview. The chart can be extended over time, when you think of more people you know – or get to know new people.