Building a career network is nowhere near as easy as building a social network for the seasoned Instagram user.
There is a tried and true formula to building a good Instagram account. With the right amount of well-trained artistic eye, witty captions, and a good hashtag, you can have a popular following. You’re connecting with people on the basis of similar experience, humor and an eye for beauty.
But career networking feels different. How do you know you’re talking to the right people? How do you get so good at networking you actually get a job?
There's an art behind transitioning beyond our social media accounts and into the real world to find our career paths.
Here’s how you can turn your Instagram know-how into career-networking gold:
Step One: Take advantage of your friends’ networks of followers.
You always start building a network through the people you already know.
On Instagram, if you want more followers, you start with the friends of your friends. Because you have a mutual connection, there’s already a common ground. You know you’ll likely have similar interests and hobbies.
It’s the same concept with building your career network.
Start with friends who have connections to the industries you’re interested in. Ask each of them to introduce you to one new person in that industry. After you meet those new people, ask each of them to introduce you to another new person.
The key is to never leave an introduction without the name of someone new you can talk to. After a few months of making these connections, you’ll step back and see the wide net you’ve cast throughout your desired industries.
As a bonus, you’ll also have gained multiple perspectives about these career paths. These can serve as a guide to honing your job search to specific areas you can excel in and eliminating things you wouldn’t be particularly good at or enjoy.
Step Two: Present your best self the way you present your best moments.
When you post a photo on Instagram to represent an experience you’re having, you have one shot to show the best version of that experience. You pick the most artistic and beautiful shot in your arsenal – one to inspire awe and make people jealous they weren’t with you.
When you’re getting dressed for a mixer or an informational interview with a new connection, you want to treat your appearance the same way. You have one shot to impress and show your professionalism.
Though you’re told not to judge a book by its cover, that adage cannot be applied to networking. Because you’re trying to stick out in people’s memories as someone who they want to work with, you want to make sure your outfit stands out. When you walk into an event or office, you want people to wonder who you are.
Invest in some key, professional staples to add to your wardrobe. Blow dry and style your hair. Match your accessories. Take your appearance to the next level.
Step Three: Filter your words as much as you filter your photos.
Once you’ve chosen those key moments to share on Instagram, you jazz them up even further with fancy filters and color-correcting tools.
In networking, you need to supplement your professional appearance with the right words to back it up.
Research typical questions people ask you when you’re looking for a new career. Be prepared with specific answers for the type of job you’re looking for and have alternate responses ready if you’re looking into a few different industries.
Keep the cursing and inappropriate stories to a minimum. It isn’t about NOT being you, just presenting the best VERSION of your charming self.
Step Four: Make your resume as concise as your captions.
Captions should be pithy and short.
Similarly, your resume should be direct and to the point. It should always be in your bag with you while you’re networking.
Don’t use 10 words to describe your education or internship responsibilities when you can use five. Find keywords in the descriptions of jobs that interest you and include them in your resume.
Your resume should never be more than a page unless you’re an executive with 20 years under your belt. Edit your experiences down to just the most relevant points.
Step Five: Turn off your phone.
Your phone is a necessary tool for social networking, but it's an unnecessary distraction when it comes to career networking.
When you’re making a new connection, turn off your phone and be present in the moment. Don’t look at who is texting you about tonight’s twist in “Game of Thrones.” Listen to the person across from you and show them you’re truly interested in what they have to offer.
They’ll respect you as someone who is genuinely looking for a career and, therefore, offer you the best advice. If they respect you, they’ll be more likely to keep you in mind for the next job opening in their company.
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