Whether face-to-face or through social networking websites, it can be difficult to find time to meet and build relationships with new people. However, it can also be extremely rewarding should you wish to advance your building services career.
To reap the benefits of networking, be clear about what you hope to achieve from an event or social media group, and keep that objective in mind when communicating with others. Clearly, membership of a leading professional body such as CIBSE is an excellent springboard for career development. The institute's events will provide you with opportunities to meet senior professionals within the construction field, and to subsequently market yourself.
Establishing a strong network of contacts requires time and effort, as you will need to follow up with any contacts that you have met. But networking should also be an enjoyable experience. Everyone is subconsciously doing it all the time, both inside their own organisations and at external events. While the benefits of networking cannot be quantified, they often include access to the 'hidden' jobs market – that is, you may find out about roles before they come onto the market officially.
Finally, remember that you don't have to be an extrovert to be effective at networking: pay attention to others, pick your targets and use every opportunity to learn and absorb information. And in as much as you are trying to get something from the people you network with, you must also offer something as well – networking is about give and take.
Social media has provided great opportunities to help sell yourself to potential employers. It's also an opportunity to showcase your skills and experience to a much larger number of people then was previously possible.
LinkedIn and other professional social media websites enables you to build a professional profile that would appeal to employers. A well-prepared public profile will also benefit you when you are networking in person, as people you meet are likely to find out more about you through your profile.
You should treat your profile with the same care and attention to detail as you would your CV, making sure to highlight your skills and achievements. As with a CV adding a personal statement that describes you and your career intentions will help anyone viewing it to frame a positive image of you.
On top of setting up a profile, LinkedIn's community gives you the opportunity to display your expertise by joining and participating in special interest groups. You may wish to join any that are relevant to your profession, such as the CIBSE group. By being part of a group and also participating in discussion, you can show your experience and build contacts.
If you also have a Facebook account, it's worth bearing in mind how you come across to employers if they viewed your profile. Whilst many would consider LinkedIn and Facebook as separate, some employers will check out your Facebook profile and may form judgements on you based on what they see. Whilst this is still a contentious issue with regards to what employers should use, it's worth remembering that your profile is in the public domain, so you should think about whether you would be happy for a potential employer to view your Facebook profile.