How to network and engage with your peers (and land your next big job)

Are you currently on the hunt for your next great job, or are you seriously thinking about making a job change? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then you really should be asking yourself if you’re doing everything you can to reach the next rung on your career ladder.

Sure, most of us who have been in the work world for a while know the basic tools for job hunting—updating and polishing our profiles on professional sites like LinkedIn to razor-sharp perfection, searching for positions that match our backgrounds and skill sets on job sites, researching companies in our field and checking out the career portals on their websites (and wading through the application process if we see something that catches our interest), and repeating the process on a daily basis until our next great opportunity arises.

Sure, these are proven, tested, and tried-and-true methods for finding a new job, but is there anything else you can be doing? Absolutely: You should leverage your own individual network, which you’ve been building up practically your whole life. What constitutes your network? Simply put, it’s everyone in your immediate and tangential orbit—friends, family, extended family, colleagues, and peers, along with people in their individual networks.

Think about it—you’ve spent a lifetime building deep, and meaningful relationships with these folks, and often they’re the people who know you best and can attest to what you’re capable of doing. And chances are, they’d be more than happy to help you succeed, so it makes perfect sense to network and engage with your peers and close contacts to open new doors to professional opportunities.

Granted, it may not be easy to turn to the people in your intimate network in such a new and unexpected way, and some people are reluctant to take advantage of these resources when the time comes to jump back on the job search bandwagon. However, there are strategies you can use to help—and it’s more than worth it to use every resource available at your disposal, especially in today’s ultra-competitive job market. Consider the following tips to help you network and engage effectively with your peers as you hunt for your next big job.

Get comfortable

As previously mentioned, it can be a bit awkward to upend the usual tone of a close relationship and take it in a completely new and different direction. Perhaps you’ve never had conversations about work or your professional aspirations with some of the people in your network before, and now you want to take things there. The first step is to get comfortable with the idea—before getting started. Why is this so important? Because the initial tone of a conversation matters a great deal, and if you start things off feeling awkward or ashamed, then chances are your audience will feel the same way — not an excellent footing to get things started on. So, make peace with the idea that you’re going to engage with folks in your network about the fact that you’re on the job hunt and open to learning about possible fits, and approach each conversation with confidence and optimism. Both you and the people in your network will appreciate it!

Proceed with caution

No, this doesn’t negate the confident and optimistic approach we just told you to take. It simply means that for each conversation, choose your moment to engage carefully. Perhaps a party where drinks are involved, while you’re in a large group of people having fun, or right after having a sad or difficult conversation about another serious matter aren’t ideal moments to turn the conversation toward your career aspirations. Choose your moments wisely, which includes both the venue and your approach. Trust us, a little care and caution will really help ensure that your engagement opportunities are fruitful.

Showcase your value

Sure, at the core of every networking conversation is a hope that you’ll unearth opportunities that benefit you—but that doesn’t mean that the entire tone of your conversations should be “What can you do for me?” Instead, when engaging with peers in your network, highlight your strengths and abilities and always work to turn things into how you could be of value to them and those in their networks. Yes, on a basic level you’re hoping that someone in your network can do something for you, but make sure that you clearly communicate what they’ll be getting in return. On that note, whenever you find yourself on the opposite side of the conversation and someone in your orbit is networking for a new job, always be receptive and helpful—which will put you in a much better position when the tables turn.

If you’re looking to leverage your peer network in an effort to land your next great job, use the strategies and advice presented here to help get you started in the right direction. Good luck!

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