September 21, 2017 BestCompaniesAZ

4 Tips on Networking Your Way to Your Dream Career

By Lee Vikre | @LeeVikre

There is an 80% chance you will get your next job through someone you know. Networking is a career development necessity. In our inaugural Career Coach Radio podcast Latasha Causey, Director of Regional Site Management for USAA’s Phoenix Campus recommends to job seekers, “Number one: network. It’s all about networking.”

Here are 4 tips on networking your way to your dream career: 

Network before you need a job. Think of networking like an investment account. It can make you prosperous, but first you have to invest in it. Reach out to each of your contacts once or twice a year. Provide referrals, introductions, and links to relevant blog posts. Give more than you get. Make more deposits than withdrawals. Don’t take your network for granted. Your investment account will help you retire in style, but your network will help you grow your best career.

Network before you even know what you want to do. Causey recommends that once someone determines they are going to leave the military, for example, they should start networking in the civilian community. “You may not know exactly what you want to do, but networking and knowing a variety of people will help you make a decision.” This good advice relates also to those who are starting to consider a career change, but don’t yet know what it will be.

Find your sweet 16. Not all great companies are great for everybody. One person’s dynamic excitement is another person’s chaotic stress. One person’s stability is another person’s boredom. Before you become desperate for an offer, find the right culture for you. “You want a place you can bring your whole self to work every day. Your whole self, thoughts, culture and values, and not leave any of that at home”, Says Gay Meyer, AVP of HR for USAA. “That’s what we expect of employees at USAA.”

Your diverse background will be welcomed at some companies, so why not work where you can contribute to your fullest? Target your “Sweet 16” companies where you would really like to work. Keep a spreadsheet or database of these companies. Find out more by regularly reading local business news, set Google alerts for companies you find interesting, and search sites like BestCompaniesAZ and LinkedIn. Any more than 16, and it’s hard to keep up with it. Fewer than 16, and you may miss opportunities. Keeping up with your Sweet 16 is work, but worthwhile.

Grow your network. Expand your network, especially within your Sweet 16. Send out at least one LinkedIn invitation a day. Don’t be intimidated by LinkedIn’s restrictions on who you can connect to. LinkedIn is like a huge virtual networking event. Just as everyone expects strangers to introduce themselves at a Chamber of Commerce mixer, almost everyone now knows to accept LinkedIn connections, just as you’d accept a business card. “We’ve done business together” is a good vague choice to connect with someone you don’t personally know.

Who should you connect with? The CEO and the executive team, the head of the function you’re interested in, administrative assistants, and people doing jobs similar to the job you may want. Anyone you have a second-degree connection with. Anyone you see mentioned in the news. Recruiters and HR pros can also be helpful.

Don’t overlook your built-in network of family and friends; they know people who know people. “You may not know it, but your next job may come through someone in your house”, says Causey. As employee referrals become increasingly important sources for recruiters, your friends and family may be more helpful than you realize.

Don’t forget to ask, “who else should I be talking to?”

Balance in-person and online networking. Online networking is powerful, but don’t hide behind your computer. Targeted career events, association meetings, and meetups can put you in touch with managers who want to hire you. Causey emphasized that specialized career events are created specifically to meet diverse candidates. Unlike the “job fairs” of the past, these career events often involve mid-career positions and are attended by leaders who are focused on hiring great people from diverse backgrounds.

A great opportunity to network and meet hiring representatives from USAA and many more award-winning employers is at the 3rd Annual Diversity and Inclusion Career Event, November 1, 2017. Get all the details and then reserve your spot!

Hear more insider tips from the hiring experts at USAA on landing your dream career in our Career Coach Radio podcast.

About the Author
Lee Vikre – Hiring Jedi
A workplace culture maven, writer, and speaker, Lee Vikre has helped numerous companies develop “best company” cultures, gaining recognition at the local and national level. Lee has been called the Jedi Master of hiring because of her exceptional recruiting abilities and friendships with people who love Star Wars. Her favorite activities involve matching people with their dream jobs at award-winning best companies. Lee coaches CEOs but still hasn’t been able to train her three dogs not to bark during conference calls.