Networking is an essential job search and career development tool in today’s highly competitive job market.
The term “networking” is building social relationships with other people who share similar personal or career interests, activities, backgrounds or real-life connections and then mutually benefitting from them.
For those in the job market, the importance of shrewd networking cannot be underestimated with some studies suggesting that over 85 percent of open positions are filled through networking before jobs are posted online - either internally or through a referral from a trusted source.
However, networking can often be a way to grow one's relationships for future career goals or business ventures.
In relation to career development, a well-developed network provides a support system of individuals who can assist your career exploration, connections to other individuals and learning about potential job openings first.
That being said, networking can be alien to some Irish people who arrive in the US without prior experience.
“The word networking can evoke anxiety in most Irish people. I try to think of it as relationship building,” says Caoimhe Forde, Co-Chair of Irish Network New York City (INNYC).
Biggest networking mistake
“The number one mistake many new arrivals to the US make when they start networking is asking people they first meet if they can get them a job.
“You should always think of how you can help the person you are talking to rather than simply asking what they can do for you.
"It’s a two-way street and it’s important to remember this.”
“It’s helpful to have a group of mentors you can look to for career advice on different issues, rather than simply one mentor.
“That way you will have someone who can advise you on specific areas. Many people seek senior executives as mentors but you can find valuable mentors amongst your peers and it’s important to remember that sometimes you can learn more from a peer than someone who started their career decades ago.”
“After connecting with someone, it’s important to follow up and keep in touch.
"If you have any materials you think they may find useful or interesting you could follow-up by sharing this with them. It is a good idea to touch base every couple of months and check in with them.
"You can then build and foster a relationship and when the time comes that you are looking to make a career change, you can reach out to them.”
Advice for networking events
“Going to networking events for the first time can be daunting, bringing a friend along can make it less nerve-wracking.
“Try to be yourself when you’re at an event, have a friendly relaxed chat before exchanging business cards. It will be much easier to connect with someone if you are approachable and easy to talk to than when you’re too formal and business-like.”
"I would also encourage people to make sure they attend networking events regularly to build relationships as people don’t always have time to meet for coffee but will make an effort to be at important recurring events."
Networking events are only as productive as you want them to be, so make sure to get the most out of the event by research and prepare accordingly.
Be prepared for your networking event by following some of our top tips:
- Don’t ask for a job immediately try to find common ground first and offer services or skills which would be of benefit to the person they are connecting with.
- Bring a friend and be yourself!
- Know who will be attending, their background and prepare questions
- Make a list of people you who will be of most value to you and focus on engaging with them
- Don’t oversell yourself and be interested in other people’s background/career – remember, it’s a two-way street!
- Bring business cards - Not having a business card can appear unprofessional, but wait until the end of your discussion to exchange
- Follow up by emailing and/or adding the person on LinkedIn
Where do I find networking events as an Irish person?
Irish Network USA is the national umbrella organization integrating the 19 Irish Networks that exist in various cities across the United States and holds regular networking events.
The INNYC, which is part of this organization, host events on the third Thursday of every month.
"Current and former board members have gained employment from people they've met at these events by making valuable introductions to companies hiring, leading to employment offers," says Forde.
Irish consulates across America are also advisable, Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
The Irish Consulate in New York holds their very popular First Friday Networking Breakfast on the first Friday of every month and Forde says "it's best to attend regularly to build relationships."
Irish immigration centers are also tied into the US jobs scene and offer other free services including resume advice and interview techniques. Examples of these are the Aisling Centre in New York or the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston
Websites like Eventbrite are also great tools to find out the latest networking events in your vicinity.
The obvious starting point for online networking is, of course, LinkedIn - the world's largest professional networking website designed for career and business professionals to connect.
Top tips using LinkedIn to network
- Invest in a professional headshot if possible
- Build a clear and concise profile that shows who you are, what you do and your achievements.
- Personalize invitations to connect as they are more likely to be accepted rather than the generic template LinkedIn offers
- Build your connections past 500 - LinkedIn stops counting after that.
- Connections effectively act as endorsements of your professional capability, so a well-connected profile gives you an extra layer of credibility.
- Get former work colleagues to write recommendations under your profile.
- Be active: Allocate time every day commenting, posting or sharing information - this will increase your profile reach to new connections.
- Sign up for a free 1 month LinkedIn premium trial: It allows direct messages to recruiters, an ability to see who’s viewed your profile, online video courses as well as access to experts and hiring managers to help you prepare for interviews
However, not everyone is on or active LinkedIn and the prudent networker should utilize other social media platforms.
For example, if the person you wish to connect with and build a relationship is an active Twitter or Instagram user, following and/or interacting with them on those platforms may grab their attention quicker and may make it easier for them to come in contact with your work.
Direct messaging can be restricted on LinkedIn depending on the account but other platforms are not so it’s something to keep in mind too.
Caoimhe Forde is the Co-Chair of Irish Network New York City (INNYC), an organization of Irish nationals, Irish-Americans, and Friends of Ireland, which enhances the communities in the greater New York area by facilitating Irish and Irish-American cultural, social, philanthropic and professional networking events.
On Friday, July 19, 2019, the group's Summer Party takes place at Tuttles, 735 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10016 and non-members are encouraged to attend. The evening will feature a raffle with a fabulous list of prizes including two tickets to Liverpool v Sporting Lisbon at Yankee Stadium and much more.
For further information or to register, visit or contact (646) 422-7072.