In this article we’ll look at five quick things you can do to supercharge your career prospects. Doing these five things will make a big difference to both your future career and the job you’re in now. This advice is for people who are looking to get into the workplace, those looking to make a career transition and more generally those who are looking to stand out from the crowd for the right reasons. Let’s get cracking!
The first in our list is networking. We know that strikes fear into the hearts of some people, but networking is very different now to how it used to be. It used to mean going to conferences, meeting up with people, introducing yourself, making small talk and all those things that sometimes you don’t want to do. Networking nowadays is very different, in no small part due to the pandemic. We have social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook amongst other platforms. For business networking, we would suggest two platforms to concentrate on. The first is LinkedIn, without question, and the other one is Twitter.
Let’s start with LinkedIn which is a business social networking platform. You should definitely have a profile on there, and we’ll be writing an article soon on how to write a killer LinkedIn profile to attract the employers that you want to work for. LinkedIn is something you must be on and you’ve got to have a professional profile on there that will attract the right people to you. LinkedIn allows you to build a big network of people you want to work with or work for. You can have up to 30,000 1st line connections on LinkedIn so the possibilities are vast.
Just 15 minutes of focused effort on LinkedIn every day will make a massive difference to your career prospects and to you personally. We’ve all got 15 minutes that we can put aside to do this, so there are no excuses! What you need to do is search in your industry or in an industry you want to work in and find the relevant people you want to connect with. For example, you might want to connect with managing directors, HR directors, or IT directors, depending on what sort of industry you want to work in. The first stage is to find these people and send a connection request. There’s some debate as to whether you need to put a message on the connection request or not. Some people swear by it and some people just send a connection request without a message. On balance it’s probably better to send a message and to make it personal wherever possible.
It’s up to you to come up with a message that you want to use but something along the lines of, ‘I’d like to move into the [fintech] industry and would really value connecting with you, so that I can gain insight into the market,’ would be sufficient. Alternatively, you could try something like, ‘I’m looking to move into the [data analytics] industry, and I’d be really keen to learn any tips from you.’ That sort of message is non-confrontational and you’re asking for their help. People like to help other people. Decent businesspeople know that networks are everything and they will connect if you send a respectful message. You have 200 characters for a connection request, so can write a slightly longer message as required if you like.
If you’re not comfortable with sending a longer message, you could just send a message saying, ‘It would be great to connect,’ but be aware that this is possibly your only chance to connect so a better message will get a better response. You should aim to send 10 – 15 connection requests a day. You don’t want to send too many as LinkedIn will throttle your account if they think you’re spamming people or abusing the platform. You can learn more about LinkedIn’s connection rules here.
Once you’ve made the connection you need to then interact with those people so keep a list of people you’re connecting with. For example, if a post comes up from one of these connections where they’ve shared a bit of insight into their industry, drop a like on the post and a comment. They may remember they’ve connected with you but they may not, so you want to keep your profile fresh in their mind. Don’t go mad with the likes but pick posts that appeal to you and always think about any comment you make, because the original poster, their connections and your connections may see it. When you like and / or comment on a post, people will look at your profile and this is why it matters how you’ve written your profile. We’re going to look at that in another article.
Through connecting and then interacting you can put yourself out there, raise awareness of your profile and let people know that you want to move into a certain industry or that you’re available for work. Your profile also allows you to talk about your achievements and the things you’ve done in your life which will attract the right people to you. Regular activity on LinkedIn will make an enormous difference to your career prospects. If you’re also posting thoughtful pieces about the industry on your profile, then that’s all the better. Producing good content is a powerful way to attract and interact with people.
Twitter is another platform we recommend spending some time on. It’s a much-underused platform in our opinion, yet it provides a valid way to make connections, to interact and eventually to meet businesspeople in real life.
Sometimes you can access people on Twitter that you might struggle with on LinkedIn. Very senior people can dip in and out of LinkedIn and sometimes they won’t respond to messages because they get so many, they get overwhelmed. Here’s a trade secret for you. What we’ve found on Twitter is that some very senior people have Twitter accounts that have hardly any followers. They’re going onto Twitter and posting but they’re not getting much interaction in terms of likes or comments. Here’s where the opportunity lies and the opportunity is big.
If you’ve identified someone on LinkedIn and you’re struggling to connect or to gain any traction with them, search for them on Twitter, see if they’ve got a Twitter account, and follow them there. Once you’ve done that, again, it’s about interaction and building a relationship. Like some of their posts, drop a comment now and again but as with LinkedIn, don’t be spammy and like every single post and certainly don’t immediately say that you’d like to get a job with them or meet for a coffee.
Building relationships take time so drop some insightful comments on their posts, and they will start answering you back. After a while they will probably follow you back which means that you can then send them a direct message. Use this power wisely though. It’s very uncool when someone follows you to immediately direct message them with a pitch. After a while of following each other and liking each other’s content, you could say, ‘we’ve been following each other for a while and I’m really thankful for the insights I’ve gained. Would you have 10 minutes for a phone call as I’m looking to move into your industry?’ They are very likely to say yes because you’ve done the groundwork and built up some trust and goodwill. So network, network, network because time spent doing this is never wasted time.
Read as much as you can about the industry and the key people
Number two on our list is to read. Read books, listen to podcasts, read articles and blogs online every day. Set aside half an hour which is ample time to read a blog or article from somebody you’re interested in. This can lead on to some clever networking because if someone you want to connect with has written an interesting article or they’ve recorded a podcast you can drop them a note to say, ‘Hi [David], I really enjoyed your recent article and wanted to say thanks for the insights. I’d be delighted to connect with you.’
Obviously, you need to have read the article in order to comment, just in case they ask what it was you liked. People appreciate comments and the fact that you’ve taken the time to read the article and say thanks will almost certainly lead to a reply from them to say thanks for the comment, and then they may check out your profile and learn a bit about you. Doing these small things will put you head and shoulders above other candidates. Normally when a CV lands on someone’s desk, the reality is that you’re just another name. You might have an impressive background which definitely helps, but if your CV lands on someone’s desk and they recognise you from LinkedIn then naturally you stand a better chance of being called for interview. It really helps to read widely because you’re going to learn about the people you’re trying to connect with and you’ll learn more about the industry you want to work in at the same time. It’s important to spend half an hour every day so set aside the time and get reading.
Model the behaviours of successful people
Third on our list is to model behaviours. If you’re in an industry or a company and you see someone who’s very successful, there’s a reason for that. It could just be that they’re very disciplined, but there’ll be some things they are doing day in and day out that are making them more successful than others. If you know the person well enough, invite them for a coffee and spend 10 minutes asking them what makes them successful. Find out how they’re hitting target every month, or how they’re winning so much business for the company. Find out what these key behaviours are and then model them, because if they’re successful in that environment and you do similar things in your own way, you will be successful too.
Ask for projects and more responsibility
Number four is to ask for projects and opportunities that will allow you to demonstrate your skills and help you to grow. Your manager might be thinking that you lack enthusiasm for the job or to make progress, when the reality is that you might be absolutely raring to take on more responsibility or run your own project. If you don’t ask then you don’t get and therefore it’s important to ask for opportunities. Is there a project coming up that you could be the project manager for, or is there a project coming up that you could be more involved in?
Putting yourself in that position will be a learning curve but will also mean that you are likely to be asked to do more projects and to take on more responsibility subsequently. It all starts with you asking for the opportunity and then making the most of it.
The final item in our list is to be consistent. Doing the things we’ve discussed once will have no effect, however, the cumulative effect of taking action every day is massive and always leads to results.
To recap, we first looked at networking. Go onto LinkedIn and Twitter every day, follow people you are interested in, interact with them and eventually that will lead to meetings, phone calls and opportunities. Read every single day for half an hour or more if you can make the time. Read books, read blogs, articles, newspapers, trade journals, listen to podcasts whenever you can. This will give you tremendous insight into the companies, people and jobs in the industry in which you want to work.
Modelling behaviours was our third point. Observe and model the behaviours of people who are successful. If you do this, then before you know it, you’ll be sharing in that success. Asking for projects was our fourth item. Ask for opportunities, otherwise people don’t know that you’re keen to take on more responsibility. Put your head above the parapet, take a risk and it will pay dividends to you later down the line.
Our fifth and final point was to be consistent. Do these things every single day and you will rapidly see that you’re making huge progress in your career. The ultimate goal is that you want to get into an industry that fits with your career aspirations, and to learn skills and knowledge from others that will let you thrive once you are there. You’ll also learn discipline and continuing to do these things every day will take you to ever greater heights. Good luck, you can do this!