More Powerful Than a Resume: Networking with Professionals
“Networking is not optional. It’s required.”
That’s the message for Kansas City professionals from Matt Tidwell, Ph.D.
Tidwell, program director for the integrated marketing communications master’s program at the KU Edwards Campus (KUEC), says your resume matters — and so do your accomplishments — but knowing the right people is indispensable for finding your next job.
“The way that people get hired for jobs is not through online postings,” Tidwell said. “It's through a very basic effort — networking within the professional community in their vocational area.”
Tidwell shares his top four tips to networking in the Kansas City area.
The Key to Professional Networking
Networking is rarely something you fall into. You have to make an effort to get to know other professionals who share your job field, interests and outlook.
“You have to almost view it as getting a job is a job in itself,” Tidwell said. “You have to be very methodical about it and you have to invest. Oftentimes it's not money — although certainly that can help if you think about joining professional organizations and things like that — but it's even more investment of time.”
However, networking is time well-spent in terms of future dividends. You’re building relationships with other professionals in your career field and other, related fields. You’re sharing knowledge and connections. And you’re raising your profile in your job search.
The business community in the Kansas City metro is a little more closely-knit than in some of the larger cities – so if you make a good impression in your networking, word does get around.
Meet With Professionals in your Career
Yes, join the professional organizations. But also make a deliberate effort to have one-on-one interactions with local professionals in your career.
“If you’re in job search mode, and you want to expand your network, you need to be having coffee in person — brief coffee meetings — with probably two to three people you don't know every week,” Tidwell said. “And then I would have another two to three phone calls with people you don't know, setting them up for the next week's coffee.”
What you’re doing in these meetings is getting to know people in your field and talking to them about job prospects and professional growth. They will often have leads about job prospects in their organization, or future job openings, and can give you an insider’s perspective about working there.
He added: “The professional development groups and programs that are out there, I think they're better than nothing. But I don't see them as nearly effective as the shoe-leather method.”
Use LinkedIn for Business Networking
“We have more tools as networkers in 2018 than we did in 2007,” Tidwell said. “We need to use those tools to our benefit.”
The best tool for business networking? Tidwell says that’s LinkedIn.
“LinkedIn is a social media tool and its sole purpose is really networking,” he said. “Let's say you work for a company that I've seen a job posting for. You're not in my network, but because I've networked with my friend I can now see all of his connections including you. I see that you worked for XYZ Company, I can call my friend, and have him set up a meeting for us. That makes LinkedIn worth it.”
You can also reach out to people in your friends group and ask them questions, or share knowledge.
It Really Is About Who You Know
Some of this may be difficult for introverts, Tidwell acknowledged. “I certainly realize that if your personality type is more introverted, frankly, it means the work is going to be even harder for you.”
That’s not a get-out-of-networking card, however.
“I talk to a lot of job seekers — some of whom come into Kansas City maybe from a larger city like New York or someplace like that,” Tidwell said. “And I tell them that there certainly are great jobs here. Oftentimes it can be harder to find those jobs because the town really runs on this network of who you know. So that's why I say it's not really optional.”
However, introverts can be great with networking. Give yourself some quiet time before and after the networking meetings so you can recharge. Go to your coffee meetings with a plan, and aim for a meaningful conversation. Ask for introductions from the professionals you’re meeting with – they’re always happy to oblige.
Finally, send a friendly email afterward, thanking your new connection for their time, and follow up on their suggestions and recommendations.
Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone when networking – but also be prepared for new possibilities opening up in your job search as a result.
For more information, read on:
- Tips for turning the traditional approach to networking upside down
- 6 Ways to Get and Keep A Higher-Paying Job You Love
- How an online program may be your answer to finally fitting in your degree