Career networking (also referred to as networking) is the process of connecting with others to gain information about your career field and to discover employment opportunities. If you are looking for a job, networking is important because many positions are not advertised. Word-of-mouth is the only way to learn of these positions. Networking is also helpful if you are seeking to advance in your career field because it allows you to gain different perspectives and new insight into your career.
To network you must make and maintain contacts. The two main categories of networking contacts are warm contacts and cold contacts. There are also two subcategories of warm contacts: luke-warm contacts and cool contacts. Together these types of contacts form your career network. Below is a description of each type of contact:
Warm contacts are people you know, have met, or someone with whom you have a mutual contact. They can be your coworkers, friends, family members, acquaintances, or friends of friends.
Be sure you tell your friends and family members when you are looking for a new job. Many people overlook friends and family when they are thinking about career networking because they may work in other career fields. However, you probably do not know everyone your friends and family members know. Close friends and family members can be some of your best contacts because they are often highly motivated to help you because of their strong relationship with you. Therefore, when they learn about opportunities, they will eager to let you know.
Luke-warm contacts are a type of warm contact. They are people you have met but are not close to; they would also be considered acquaintances. They could be people you have just met or they could be people you see regularly but do not know well.
Cool contacts are also a type of warm contact. They are people you have never met but they are someone with whom you know someone in common. For example, if your cousin recommends you call her friend, Jennifer Smith, who works in your field, then Ms. Smith is a cool contact. When you contact her, you will be able to let her know that your cousin recommended that you reach out her her.
The way you will leverage your warm contacts will depend on how well you know them and what experience they have. You might ask to let you know if they hear about job openings you might be interested in or you might ask for advice, such as general questions about getting job or specific about your career field.
If your warm contacts work in a field you are interested in, you can ask them if they would participate in an informational interview so you can learn about their job or you can ask them if you could shadow them at work. If your warm contact does not work in a career field you are interested in, you can also ask if they know anyone who is in your field. The people they refer you to would also become warm contacts because you would have a connection in common.
Cold contacts are people that you don't know at all and have no connection with, but whose experiences could be helpful for your career. They are people you find through your research. You can find cold contacts from a variety of sources such as a telephone book; a company website; a directory of members of a professional organizations; or professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn.
Cold contacts are usually employed in your intended job field or a similar field. In most cases you would not ask them for a job, but you might ask for advice or for information about the career field. If the cold contact works in a field you are interested in, you could ask them if they would participate in an informational interview so you could learn about their job or you if you could shadow them at work.
Use the information above to make the most of the contacts who make up your career network. Make an effort to add contacts to your network; the more contacts you have, the more information you can gain. However, your career network only helps you if you make an effort to stay connected with your contacts. Cultivate your relationships to keep your network strong.