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Planning a better future
Planning a better future

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6.8 Networking

You may have noticed that several of the information sources listed in Table 1 involve networks – a group of interconnected people who have something in common; for example, local contacts, friends and family, and social media websites and apps.

There are different types of network, all of which can help you to explore options and achieve your career goals.

Personal networks

Your personal network is likely to be made up of members from different areas of your life:

  • your family
  • friends
  • educational contacts
  • hobby or interest groups
  • people in a similar situation or with similar perspectives.

As well as helping you to seek work, such networks can provide more general support. Sometimes you may just need encouragement to feel positive about your aspirations and achievements, or you may benefit from hearing the experiences of people in similar situations to you.

Organisational networks

Most organisations will have a number of informal networks of people with similar values, who trust and help each other to get things done. If you rely only on formal structures, you are missing opportunities, so it is useful for you to engage with or develop more informal networks. Three types of organisational networks have been identified:

  • The ‘advice’ network – the key people that others turn to for advice.
  • The ‘trust’ network – in which people have common interests and enough trust to support each other in times of crisis.
  • The ‘communication’ network (often known as the ‘grapevine’) – where people talk to others about work issues on a regular basis.

You can also think about wider organisational networks, which include customers, suppliers, competitors, partners, government bodies, trade unions or professional associations.

Occupation-specific networks

Professional networks operate outside of organisations. For example, if you have membership of a professional institution, such as the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering, then you have access to other people in your profession whether or not you work with them.

Not all occupational networks are attached to professional institutes. For example, a slimming club leader might be part of a regional network of leaders who meet for training or product updates.

For the self-employed, there are networks for local businesses who meet for mutual support. People who perform similar voluntary work sometimes meet formally or informally to share ideas.

Now you’ve learned about different types of traditional networks, it’s time to start thinking about your own networks.

Activity _unit4.6.9 Activity 15

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

In this course you should concentrate on contacts that you think may be helpful with your career development – otherwise your network could become unusable due to its size. Be careful who you omit though, because it may not be immediately obvious that a contact will be useful. Think about what you know about them and what they do before dismissing them.

Note down lists of people under the following headings:

  • personal networks
  • your family
  • friends
  • educational contacts
  • hobby or interest groups
  • people in a similar situation or with similar perspectives
  • organisational networks
  • occupation-specific networks.
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Whether you have written a long or short list under the different categories – or even no list at all – is not important. This will entirely depend on what point you have reached in your life. What matters is that you have begun to think about mapping your networks.

It is important not to forget about online networks. This will be more or less prominent in your life depending on how you use the internet and how you feel about sharing information online. Whatever your situation, the next section will still give you a flavour of what is out there.