As a career change coach one of the key activities I advocate when making a career transition is to build a network of new contacts, in the industries or roles that you would like to transition into. Networking is a major part of a strategy that allows you to circumnavigate the traditional job market and the world-of-pain that is resumes, job boards and recruiters.

NETWORKING !!! I can hear you groan at just the mention of the word! Don’t worry you aren’t alone! I have a flashback of being at a networking event, handing out business cards, feeling super-uncomfortable, struggling to make small talk and my inner introvert is hiding behind the warm canapes!

Would you be surprised if I told you are already networking on a daily basis and that you are probably quite proficient at it?  If you use social media  you are “networking” by interacting with your contacts or friends .. liking or sharing their posts, may be sending out a linkedin invite to someone you worked with previously, or sending a friend invite to a parent you met at your kids’ soccer match. These activities are the foundation of networking and if we can get-over the “icky” feeling about networking, and rebrand it in our minds then we can start to use this as a key tool in your career change activity. I use the term “connecting” rather than networking; it helps to move you away from the connotations that are in you head and reframe the process.

“Connecting” is the cornerstone to your career change; by expanding your contacts you will be able to investigate new jobs or areas of interest; booking informational interviews that allow you to dig deep on what jobs or sectors are actually like to work in, testing the water by job shadowing and volunteering or offering help on projects.  All of these activities allow you to build a picture of potential industries or roles in a risk-free approach; whilst also building a relationship with a potential employer or a contact in a sector of interest.

Start small; take baby steps that will allow you quick results and to build you confidence. Contact your friends, previous work colleagues and employers through Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram. Let them know you are looking for a career change and ask them for introductions to friends that could help you. You can be really specific “I’m looking for a career change to finance” or more general “I’m looking for a career change that will allow me more contact with people”. This is a huge first step forward and you’ll be amazed at how supportive people can be. And you’ve made your first formal steps into connecting!

Next step…  Contact those friends of friends; can you meet them for a coffee or a chat about their role? Who else can they introduce you to? Keep expanding that network and your knowledge base; as you meet people and chat about their role where does that lead you?  Keep checking back how that feels and if you want to continue to delve further into that niche or field. Does it need a slight pivot or a change of focus? Keep building on those links as you go.

So let’s get your career change journey underway .. which of your connections could be the key to your future?