Building a career in today’s demanding economic climate can be one of the most challenging phases in your life.
Whether you are progressing in a successful career or dealing with career roadblocks, having a strong social support system can have a bearing on your career progression.
The business contacts, colleagues, as well as friends and family that you can turn to are your social support system. They can offer support to help you move on, connect you with industry peers, or even open doors to career opportunities.
Research has found that up to 90% of jobs are found through friends, relatives and personal contacts. However, maintaining and growing a social support system requires effort, and can even be daunting.
What then are some steps that you can take?
A relationship, even with an industry acquaintance, is a two-way street. The amount of time and effort spent nurturing it will determine how meaningful it will be to your career.
For a start, make it a point to stay in touch with your past and present colleagues, bosses, clients and hiring managers that you had previously contacted. Invest time to return calls and emails to maintain the relationships.
For people who had offered you work assistance or pointed you to job opportunities, update them on your career progress. Always remember to thank them, and let them know how much they mean to you.
While some prefer to have a small circle of close-knit friends, it helps to have a wide network of connections with industry peers and influencers.
Connecting with people in the industry can get you first-hand accounts of work culture, job challenges and industry trends. It may even get you news of unadvertised job openings and referrals.
The best ways to grow your network are through industry events, professional associations and online business platforms. These forums bring people of similar business interests together, and offer opportunities of meeting potential employers. When joining these events, do network with as many contacts as you can to give others the opportunity to know you. For a start, you can tap on the career events organised by Workforce Singapore and NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) for opportunities to meet and network with employers.
You should also get connected with recruiters servicing the industry you want to build your career in. Most recruiters service a specific industry, so building a good rapport will put you in the know when suitable positions arise.
Like any other activities, networking requires time. Find out which events match your needs before signing up. Then, ask yourself what you wish to get out of it.
Next, research on the hosts, sponsors, guests and speakers you plan on meeting. When you do meet them, the chances of making a connection will be higher because you know about them.
A day before the event, plan the impression that you wish to leave. Prepare how you will introduce yourself, and practice saying it so that it comes naturally to you.
During the event, the way you carry yourself matters too. Keep your exchange light when meeting anyone for the first time. Listen actively when others speak, and offer assistance if needed.
Who you share business cards with matters. Share with those you have made a connection with, as this ensures a higher chance of successful follow-ups.
If you are networking for a job, consider sharing a 'Resume Highlights' card. These look and feel similar to traditional business cards, but focus on your key qualifications and a summary of your top 3 accomplishments.
If you had a good exchange, ask for the best way to stay in touch. Get in touch within 48 hours to indicate your interest, and reference something you have discussed so that your contact remembers you.
Having a strong social support system of friends and industry peers is one of the keys to a stable career. But growing that network is what really matters in helping you move ahead in your profession.
Instead of waiting for someone to approach you, why not make the first move by staying in touch and building relationships within your industry? Who knows, an acquaintance may just be looking for an opening to point you to opportunities.