How To Build a Professional Network

New immigrants are in many ways comparable to new graduates, minus the fact that they have great work experience – but feel highly uncomfortable because they may lack a comprehensive understanding of the local workplace culture, may not be as self-confident in their approach, and may not have a local professional network to depend on.

CanadaHistoryNetworking is all about building relationships overtime – which means you have supposedly accounted for that even before arriving to Canada. Building relationships is more important than evaluating your credentials or going back to school because on the real job market a good reference will open doors and help you move up into the position you’re aspiring for.

To network doesn’t mean to turn into a ‘networking mongrel’ and (1) collect a meaningless stack of business cards without ever following up, to (2) talk and focus on your own agenda instead of listening and gathering information, to (3) intrude or have superficial interactions. When meeting with someone you respect professionally for what they have achieved, take the time to build a real connection. There should always be a mutual benefit while networking, it’s a 2 way street. Using someone strictly for your gain will not bring along a successful relationship.
One of the most frequent questions encountered from job seekers in my career development work, was “How can I speak to a professional in my field if I simply don’t know anyone?” There is no easy answer to that, but here are a few steps that anyone can use as a start:

1. Know what you want – this may require extensive research, but if you don’t know what you want, nobody can help you. Most of this ‘Level 1′ research can be completed before arriving to Canada using the available websites, articles, online tools, and social media networks.
2. Prepare / make a target list (both professionals and companies you’d like to work for) and ensure you have acquired all relevant information, including LinkedIn connections.
3. Develop a list of specific questions you may ask in a possible informational interview and start a strategic planning around setting such meetings in the near future.
4. Avoid relying on friends only (or relatives) – this is your career and all the information has to be carefully cross-referenced using updated and reliable sources.
5. Get trained before connecting with professionals in your field/industry; it’s great if you can  receive at least basic training from a certified career advisor on how to proceed: don’t blow your chances by showing up unprepared. Skills Connect program offers free one on one counselling as well as specific training sessions that cover a variety of areas.
6. Your start matters: have some good questions ready, display self-awareness, curiosity, openness, humility, authenticity, and be considerate – just a few traits to contemplate on.
7. Keep notes – once you commence your ‘career battle’ and start on building relationships, keep an activity tracker spreadsheet or have follow-up system in place and connect with your new acquaintances consistently.

Initially published on October 30, 2013 on skillsconnectwordpress.com

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