Networking: love it or hate it, it’s a required part of any job change. A strong network can improve your job search process and make getting a new role faster and easier.
Why? People like to hire who they know which which mean internal referrals are also highly valued.
So, how to compete?
Grow your network! The more people you know, the more likely you are to have a connection who can make a referral. Referrals don’t have to come from someone who has worked with you for 20 years, it could be someone you met at an event or someone you met through LinkedIn. In fact, many larger companies have incentives for referrals. If an employee refers a candidate who gets hired, she might get a bonus of some kind. So, don’t feel awkward about asking for a referral - it can be a boon to your connection as well.
Next question, how do you grow your network? Here are the top five ways to grow your professional network:
LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for growing your network because you have virtual access to so many different companies and employees. First, it can act as a digital rolodex for people you meet; connecting on LinkedIn means you’ll see if someone you know is hiring - or knows someone who is. Search for people in roles you’re interested in or companies working in your area of interest that are outside of your immediate network. You can reach out by sending a connection request with a message. Pro tip: never ask about a job in a connection request; this should only come up after you get to know someone.
- Your union, licensing group or regulatory body. For instance, Engineers & Geoscientist BC has training and networking events that can serve as a way to meet others in your field. Ask your union rep about networking, training or social events too. These are all great ways to meet people. You can also look at Canada-wide associations like The Canadian Renewable Energy Association, who host events; or the Canada Cleantech Alliance.
- Conference or technology expos. Conferences and technology expos often have networking events, for instance the Canadian Hydrogen Convention hosts conferencing and an expo. In some cases, you can just attend the networking event/expo and not attend the rest of the conference (for a reduced cost). Consider checking with the local chamber of commerce or business association to see if there is an annual meeting where many of the local businesses gather.
- If you’re a recent graduate, check out your alma mater. Universities and Colleges often host career fairs and networking events that are open to recent graduates. This is a great way to meet people from companies you’re interested in, who you know are hiring. Check the website for your school to find event registration information.
- Hockey. Or yoga. Or paintball. Whatever your hobby might be, that can be a great way to meet other people who could actually be potential job leads. I can vouch for yoga, I once got a job after meeting an R&D VP at a yoga class. This definitely isn’t the typical way to network, but it might be where you’re more comfortable being your genuine self - which is key to creating meaningful relationships.
- Bonus! Iron + Earth host a variety of events, like this upcoming one on the recent renewables moratorium in Alberta. They also provide training opportunities through the Climate Career Portal, which can be a great way to meet other folks in a similar career transition.
Finding a new role can be stressful, but with a robust network you can reduce that stress. Even once you find a new role, it's good practice to keep up with your connections and continue to make new ones, as all of our career paths are varied and you never know when you might be looking again!
Post by freelance writer Anna Kobb
Iron & Earth’s training programs are funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.