Are you considering a career change but don’t know where to begin? Then these networking tips are just what you need.
When it comes to your career, building and maintaining a professional network makes a big difference. Whether it’s keeping an ear to the group for new opportunities or finding a mentor to break into a new sector, you will most likely lean on your network.
As a career changer, your network can offer advice, support, inspiration, referrals, and valuable connections to your industry of choice. Therefore, honing your networking skills is essential when switching career paths.
We’ve put together 7 fantastic hacks to help you network your way through a career transition.
7 Networking Tips For Changing Careers
If you are considering a career change later in life, you may be concerned that you will have to start from scratch. This isn’t the case, though. While you may lack some technical skills and know-how for your new career, your background and experience are far from irrelevant.
On top of an impressive set of transferable skills, you have probably already established a strong network of professionals throughout your career. This will stand you in good stead when planning your career pivot. In fact, your network could very well hold the key to finding your next big opportunities.
Here are 7 ways to leverage your professional network and start a new career.
1. Reach Out to Your Existing Network
Learning how to network as a career changer is critical for finding your dream job. However, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. A logical first step is to reach out to your own professional network. This can be as simple as spreading the word that you are looking for a new career path. Start with a few trusted contacts and pick their brains to see if they can connect you with someone in your new industry. If you have contacts already in your field of choice, they will have a lot of valuable wisdom to share with you.
How you reach out to your contacts depends on you. Whether it’s a message on LinkedIn, a phone call, or an email, opt for the mode that feels most comfortable. And don’t forget about family and friends. You never know; they may have an industry contact or at least steer you in the right direction. You’d be surprised how many fantastic job opportunities are made possible by a friend of a friend.
2. Grow Your Network
Once you have reached out to your existing network, it’s time to connect with new professionals in your target field. If you feel uncomfortable connecting with strangers, remember that they are in the same boat.
One of the best networking tips we can offer is to let go of embarrassment. Networking is a big part of professional life, and most people will be delighted to have a new contact in their circle.
There are different ways to go about growing your network. Social media and professional networking sites like LinkedIn are common mediums. To get started, why not try connecting with other career changers? There are plenty of professional groups for career changers online that will empower you to reach out and connect. There is also a plethora of LinkedIn groups where you can interact with other professionals in the industry.
As you gain confidence, you can use LinkedIn to find professionals in your new industry and send them an invitation to connect with a note. Explain that you want to make a career change and you would love to connect. Then, engage and interact with their posts. This is a great way to build your online presence and meet new contacts online.
Participating in industry conversation threads on LinkedIn and Twitter will also enable you to meet like-minded professionals and learn more in the process.
3. Research the Industry
If you’ve gone through your contacts and you’re still at a loss, then we advise doing some research. It’s always a good idea to thoroughly research your target industry before you take the plunge. In doing so, you can get a good idea of the job market and the career path other professionals in the industry have taken. What’s more, you will gain insight into the key skills and qualifications you will need to enter the field. For instance, you may need to retrain or refresh your skills with a professional course or by volunteering.
Once you have gotten the lay of the land, you should identify some professionals within the sector and reach out. They may be able to offer some pearls of wisdom, such as insight on how to break into the industry with minimal experience. If you’re very lucky, they may even know of an opening.
In addition, researching specialist career change job boards will arm you with the necessary tools to transition to a new career. Many employers utilise these specialist job boards to find top talent and tap into a new pool of candidates.
Still unsure if a career change is right for you? Read our handy guide on 5 signs it’s time to switch careers.
4. Find a Mentor
Changing careers can be daunting, so having a mentor to turn to is a great way to make the process less stressful. You could start with a friend or ex-colleague who has switched careers in the past. They may not be in the same industry as you, but they can definitely offer a few pointers to help you with the transition.
Ideally, look for a mentor who has already successfully broken into your new field. This person will have valuable tips and advice on where to start, who to reach out to, and what to look out for. On top of that, having a mentor’s guidance as you start your new career will give you confidence and a shoulder to cry on.
5. Nail Your Personal Brand
A huge part of networking is being able to clearly show your connections who you are and what your personal brand is. At its core, personal branding is how you promote yourself in a professional environment. It encompasses your experience, values, skills, and message. As such, it’s important to nail your personal brand before you begin your networking efforts.
Your personal brand is more than just how you carry yourself at networking events. It should be clearly represented in your CV, professional networking profiles, and job interviews. As a career changer with limited experience in your new field, your personal brand will tell your story. Essentially, it will highlight why you would thrive in this new career path.
Want to know more? Be sure to read our guide on personal branding tips for career changers.
6. Go to Industry Events
One of the best pieces of networking advice for career changers is to get involved in the industry. It may seem obvious, but a great way to get your foot in the door is to be in the right rooms. Many organisations hold regular industry events, such as networking events and conferences. We suggest keeping your ear to the ground and attending any that seem relevant and interesting. That way, you can meet fellow professionals and learn valuable insights and news from industry thought leaders.
You don’t need to go to every industry event you hear about, but selecting a couple to attend every quarter is a fantastic way to build your network. To get the most out of the events, challenge yourself to learn some new jargon or pinpoint any knowledge gaps you may have. The more you do this, the more likely you are to impress when you finally nab an interview. Plus, you get to learn about the industry culture too.
Are your networking skills a little rusty? Our confidence tips will help you get back on the horse and dazzle at your next networking event.
7. Follow Up
Remember, networking is for long-term success. While not every lead is going to result in a job, the goal is to build your network of trusted professionals. You never know when they may prove invaluable down the line. One way to nurture your relationship with your network (even after you successfully change careers) is to follow up.
Make an effort to check in with your network regularly to keep them informed about how your new career is going and to see if you can repay the favour. Expressing gratitude shows good character and will make your network more willing to help you again in the future.
This also applies to new contacts you meet at networking events or online. Sending a quick follow-up message saying it was a pleasure meeting them will open the door for future conversations. In short, every time you add a new professional to your network, take the time to continue the conversation and convert that stranger into a trusted contact.
We hope these professional networking tips empower you to take the plunge and network your way to a new career. In the beginning, networking can seem unnatural and uncomfortable; however, it doesn’t have to be. Try to be as genuine as possible as you build your contacts. Show your gratitude over a cup of coffee, follow up, and always be willing to return the favour. At the end of the day, it often boils down to who you know, not what you know.
Networking shows employers that you have the drive, initiative, and interpersonal skills to succeed in your career change career. As such, it can be the difference between landing your dream job or not.
At Refreshing a Career, our goal is to help career changers make the transition seamlessly. To guide you, we have put together a wealth of valuable resources on our website, including a comprehensive career change guide. You’ll also find CV writing tips, interview tips, and guidance on dealing with gaps in your CV.
For further advice, check out our resources on changing careers or browse our live job board for career change opportunities near you.