Julie Graham, CEO of Ingeus’s Employment Services, gives us her take on what works when you’re career switching or job hunting from home.
We miss the get-together at the water cooler. Granted, this was often a time to chat about what we watched on TV the evening before, but the office kitchen or work café also provided a natural and informal atmosphere to get to know each other, discuss work and other opportunities. The relationships we build through work are often useful for future employment prospects.
For many whose online meetings are now their sole opportunity to speak with colleagues, or for anyone out of work but actively looking, the computer screen doesn’t necessarily cut the mustard. But don’t worry, remote networking is infinitely possible. Even if you don’t have a computer at home, most mobile phones can access networking opportunities. Alternatively, most local libraries or some Jobcentre Plus offices give you access to a computer.
And you’re not alone in potentially feeling at a loss here. In a recent Ingeus online poll, 32% of respondents wanted to know more about networking professionally. It’s a new world; understandably many of us are finding our way.
Networking isn’t just about attending group meetings and pressing the flesh. Networking online allows us to showcase our skills, share our experiences to a wider audience and engage with like-minded others. It can be a great insight into a range of employers and employees, which could help you determine the job for you.
And for those looking to employ, networking can also give you a recommendation for someone who might fit the bill perfectly. So how can we get around this current remote networking challenge?
Firstly, I’d recommend taking the time to research online what works best for you and where you can access contacts on a free of charge basis. Be mindful that many online platforms may eventually ask you to upgrade, often for an annual fee. Don’t be tempted until you are certain this step would benefit you.
There are many appropriate online platforms where you can engage with people outside of your home or workplace for free. Search for forums or interest groups, work related or on subjects of interest to you. For example, if you join a group with a shared interest in engineering or horticulture, this may eventually lead to a career opportunity within that sector. Online participants may be looking to employ or know where there are current vacancies. They are also great at giving advice! Usually people want to help, so feel free to ask if you feel comfortable to do so. Some examples of professional networking sites include Xing or meetup.
This brings to mind a perfect example from our #JETS (Job Entry Targeted Support) employability programme in the North West. Jamie Bysh <link to case study> had been unemployed for nine months and feared his sporadic work history would make it impossible to find a suitable role. When his partner asked for help on social media, an Ingeus employment coach spotted the post and encouraged Jamie to join JETS. A week later Jamie had his first job offer.
LinkedIn is perhaps the best known professional networking site. It is acceptable practice to like, comment and message LinkedIn business contacts; especially useful for reconnecting with past work colleagues or engaging with employees of companies that appeal to you. Ensure your own profile is updated and if appropriate for you, include reference to the fact you’re looking for a new role. Start building your connections and think about any other profiles you have online where you could flag up that you’re looking for work.
Many companies advertise their jobs on LinkedIn and online. Register your interest and check if any of your past contacts now work within that organisation. If so, it’s a great opportunity to drop them a line!
Online professional groups and trade bodies often have social media presences and are brilliant for e-meeting like-minded people, or people who work within an organisation to which you aspire. These can be general professional groups where you can often attend free of charge for your first meeting at least.
Again, assess what works for you and give a few a go. Make sure you have a notepad available during the e-meeting so you can jot down names and companies – the chat function on Teams is a great place to say Hi and gather contact names. A brief email following up on a group meeting is a nice way to make contact.
Many organisations put on or attend virtual career fairs. These can be universities, larger corporations, public service providers such as the Police or NHS, or smaller independent employers. With life beginning to reopen, often you can choose to attend in person or virtually. It’s worth some online research for what’s happening in your area, even if you attend virtually, you want to know these employers are looking to recruit near to where you live.
As with any social media activity, networking involves time and consideration. Make a plan, always double check your typing – sloppy typos will be noted – and stick to sensible hours. Professional contacts in particular are unlikely to welcome weekend or late night message alerts on their devices.
But above all, be you – be friendly, not pushy, and start a conversation... it’s where all good opportunities begin.