Build a Powerful Network

Explore These Possible Networking Contacts

 

Expanding your basic network will necessitate getting outside your comfort zone and contacting an extended list of individuals and groups. Here are a few ideas where you can certainly identify potential network members if you spend the time and effort!

 

  • Friends and family
  • Athletic alumni associations
  • Former athletes from teams you’ve been on
  • In-laws and distant relatives
  • Neighbors (current and past)
  • Social Acquaintances (golf, swim, tennis, social clubs)
  • Classmates (from any level of school)
  • College Alumni (get a list of those living in your job search area)
  • Old roommates, dorm floor pals, sorority or fraternity alumni
  • Clergy and church members
  • Former teachers, professors and administrators
  • Parents of your teammates or children’s friends

 

Anyone you wrote a check to in the past year or saw for services:

 

  • doctor
  • dentist
  • pharmacist
  • optician
  • lawyer
  • accountant
  • insurance agent
  • travel agent
  • repair or trades person
  • Real estate agents
  • Financial consultants
  • Stockbrokers
  • People you’ve worked with as a volunteer
  • Manager of your local bank

 

Be sure to use the college career development and placement services, even if you only attended that college a short time and did not graduate. Many colleges keep a list of alumni who have agreed to assist current and former students in the job search process. Using this list to identify contacts in a desired target area can save you much time and greatly expand your network.

 

Don’t be afraid, and don’t dismiss anyone from your list just because you have not talked to them for some time. It is common to lose touch with family, friends, and colleagues as life situations change. If the original relationship was valued, your contacts will return your calls, and they will want to help.

 

 

Building a Base of Contacts

The following are some basic steps that will help you meet people in your field and network with them successfully.

 

It’s important to remember you are trying to get information from these people, and not necessarily a job. Coming right out and asking friends or associates for a job can put them off and make you sound over-anxious or desperate. Ease into your building your network by:

 

  • Start talking with friends, your coach, and close teammates. Even if they are not interested or employed in your chosen career, they may have information and contacts that can be useful.

 

  • Base your approach on how well you know and trust each person. Let him or her know you are looking for a job and you would appreciate advice, ideas, and suggestions. Bring up the subject of your job hunt in general, then ask if you can sit down to discuss it later. This is to enable your friend/acquaintance to prepare in advance.

 

  • Don’t be afraid to call people you have not talked with in a long time; most people are flattered when asked for advice.

 

  • Be open and go into details about the kind of work and organizations that interest you.

 

The more people included in your network, the greater the chance that you will hear about job openings. Likewise, the larger your network, the greater the chance that employers will hear about you when they have job openings.

 

 

Building Your Network

 

In today’s new work economy, successful job seekers and networkers have navigated the break from old-school, passive job search roles (like  searching job boards, advertising posts, and random cold calling employers) by orientating themselves towards face-to-face action. Smart athletes now know that it is a first-move requirement in today’s job market that they present themselves to their network before anything else– to get a feel of what’s going on from many different perspectives and potential introductions that can save valuable time and trouble.

 

Everyone’s initial network consists of interacting with individuals whom they are closet to and feel most comfortable around. When you decide it is time to put the word out that you are looking for new or renewed career opportunity, you begin by calling your friends, family, teammates, and coaches.

 

Networking is increasingly taking on new communication forms in today’s high-tech world. Job seekers can take advantage of several websites and electronic databases conducting a job search, gathering information on the job market, and disseminating resumes to employers. The Internet also allows job seekers to network for people, information, advice, and job leads. Several websites will help you develop networking skills, as well as put you in contact with them for employment-related opportunities. These sites include a wealth information on the networking process. As an athlete, you should be certain to register with www.careerathletes.com and consider opening an account at www.linkedin.com.

Prepare to Work at Networking, Not Just Sports

 

You will need to create opportunities to talk to all these new people, especially those in different parts of your life other than athletics. The goal of networking is to allow you to communicate your future personal growth plans and interests and to develop face-to-face relationships with many new people that can help you in your career.

 

We mentioned earlier that one of the advantages to being a student-athlete is that you have an excellent opportunity to expand your network while you are still in competition. Every time you travel to a competition or game, try to meet and make informal contact with some of your opponents and coaches, the family, friends, and relatives of your own teammates, and even referees and umpires. Remarkably, you can expand your network at anytime and almost anywhere– even in places you thought might not be possible.

 

Be sure to find the time to make appointments with your professors so you can learn more about them. You will be amazed at how wonderfully human they are. Getting to know your professors will help you in your classes, as well as when you are in need of letters of recommendation and when you are searching for internships or full-time employment. And don’t forget to get to know your advisors, trainers, coaches, and the athletic directors. Each of these individuals has there own individual network and can assist you in much the same way your professors can.

 

The primary objective of networking will be that when the time comes, you will inform your network you are conducting a job search campaign. If they haven’t heard about your graduations from school, your “retirement” from competitive sports, or your departure from your last job, frame the news in a way that lets them know you are dealing well with the emotions of the situation and you are ready to move on to a new part of your career development. Early in the conversation, reassure the person that the real reason for your contact is to get information and advice– not that you expect them to find you a job. People want to help people, and in the final analysis, people hire people. It’s a fact.

 

Most importantly, get involved. By being active in community, academic, recreational, and social activities, where you can expand your support system and your contact network. You probably have well over fifteen years of competitive athletic experience, so see if you can use some of this athletic experience by seeking out and accepting speaking engagements with local groups who are assisting with a sports event your community. It’s a great way to meet parents of young athletes who are potential business owners and hiring managers. In sports, folks tend to look out after their own kind, and you should not underestimate the power of your athletic bonds.

 

 

The Power of Common Interests and Information

 

What makes networking work is that everyone is fundamentally comfortable with conversation, sharing of information, and helping another human being. It’s 100% natural. When it happens, networking has an easy flow.

 

When people need information about important matters of daily life, they usually get it by asking around. For instance, when parents need a babysitter, they usually ask other parents. When you need a new doctor or dentist, you might ask around. You probably decide which movies to see or avoid, based on asking around and talking to people, and it is the same with everything from your classes and instructors to which computer or cell phone to buy. Asking around usually provides you with some advance information that enables you to make a more informed decision. We all do this kind of thing all the time, usually without noticing that we are doing it.

 

All of this is networking… real networking, and not the stuff you read about in some job search article or website. What makes it real is that the two people talking to each other create a kind of shared interest and connection, and an implied trust is developed and shared. The shared interest could be that they are both are athletes or are in the same major. The connection could also be that they have a mutual friend or they share the same university. The key is that they share an interest in someone, something, or somewhere.

 

Real networking is what happens at parties. You meet someone, and in the first few minutes, you look for a common interest (people, activities, interests, attraction, personality). If there is no common interest to be found, the conversation usually goes nowhere, and you go your separate ways. However, if you find some common interest, the conversation usually takes off.

 

The other thing that happens in a real network is that people share valuable information. Information is free, but in today’s complicated society, it is becoming more common to share the valuable information in one-to-one settings, not over electronic airways. If you are an employer looking for a good addition to your company, it is becoming more valuable to ask current employees for their leads and employee recommendations rather than exclusively relying on job boards or career center advertising.

 

 

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