To some, networking seems self-serving and insincere. For others, it’s downright scary and uncomfortable. And if you consider yourself an introvert, it can be even more daunting. In fact, one study conducted by Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino revealed that people avoid professional networking because it makes them feel physically dirty! No one wants to feel like they have to take a shower after catching up with a college buddy or former colleague. But one thing is certain. Networking is necessary to get ahead—especially when changing careers.
Networking isn’t about accumulating LinkedIn connections or reaching out to people only when in need of a job. It’s about exchanging ideas and building valuable relationships over time. Usually, individuals tend to network only within their field of expertise. Instead, try expanding your connections beyond your current profession. One reason is that you’ll be exposed to diverse perspectives and points of view. In addition, when you’re ready to change jobs or careers, you’ll have access to a broader network.
Yes, you might have to deal with some form of awkwardness or rejection when reaching out to people you don’t know. But in the long run, the advantages outweigh the drawbacks. Let’s look at some top ways networking can benefit you when changing careers.
Give contacts a chance to help
One of the most obvious advantages of networking is allowing your connections to support you. So, spread the word! It also gives you the ability to explain a bit about your current career and why you’re interested in a new path. That way, you show people you’re serious and give them some context around why you are changing careers. You also never know who might have a contact within the companies or industries you’re researching.
Get valuable career advice
Networking outside your current industry allows you to expand your network, which is essential when changing careers. Don’t forget to connect with people at volunteer organizations or alumni groups. Even friends and family might have contacts in your new interest area. Then set up a virtual coffee with those people and ask for career advice. Be sure to prepare in advance, ask thoughtful questions and keep in touch with them afterward. You never know when a conversation could lead to a job opportunity.
Meet other career changers
This is one of the most exciting parts of networking when changing careers. You get to meet people who have accomplished your goal. For example, if you’re a corporate professional interested in a real estate career, search for people who have made the leap. They might be able to provide you with some tips and tricks that will help you on your journey. Once you connect with successful career changers, you’ll realize it’s possible and be inspired to do it yourself.
Practice your transition statement
Whether you’re changing industries or going from corporate to self-employment, you will need to explain your story. In other words, why are you planning to make this pivot? Think about it as your transition statement or elevator pitch. Explain why you’re making this change, how your experience is relevant and your plan to get there. Be sure to keep it pertinent and concise. As you continue to practice your transition statement, you’ll notice that it becomes easier to deliver.
Contrary to popular belief, confidence is not an innate, fixed characteristic. It’s a skill that can be developed. And with enhanced confidence come benefits. When you feel good about yourself, you’ll be more likely to take risks, try new things and embrace change. Another benefit is that increased confidence leads to improved mental and physical health. Those are all essential elements to successfully changing careers.
Once you’ve made the transition, keep your network informed. Expressing gratitude to anyone who helped you along the way is also a good idea. While changing professions isn’t easy, it’s even more difficult without a strong support system behind you. As time goes on, be sure to pay it forward by helping a fellow career changer do the same.
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