Building and leveraging professional relationships isn’t just for the suit-and-tie crowd.
But being able to make connections, build relationships and leverage your contacts are critical components to career success, regardless of what duties your job entails.
“When you’re a passive job seeker, you’re being complacent,” which can hinder your ability to get promoted or recruited, says Laurie Grove, director of career services at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
Take these five steps to build your network.
Don’t wait until you’re in the workforce to start networking. If you’re studying at a trade school, “faculty can be a great resource,” since many professors are active in their fields, says Grove. You should also be establishing relationships with fellow students, as these people will go on to become your industry peers.
Moreover, you’ll want to connect with employers who have relationships with your school. College-organized job fairs can be a great way to meet recruiters, says Randy Wooden, director of Goodwill’s Professional Center, which offers free career and job-search advice to blue- and white-collar workers.
Connect with staffing firms
Although there aren’t as many recruiters for blue-collar jobs as there are for white-collar jobs, there are still a number of staffing companies for skilled trade jobs. Be proactive and reach out to these firms. “You can’t sit back and expect them to find you,” says Wooden. Your college or trade school’s career services center should be able to help connect you to the right firms for your skill set.
Develop relationships through business
Networking doesn’t have to happen in secret during those hours away from work. Building relationships with other businesses in your community through work can help you find new clients or customers, and can help you when you decide it’s time to score a new job.
Say you’re a home contractor. You would naturally benefit by getting referrals from a local real estate agent who works with homebuyers. If you forge a good enough relationship with that real estate agent, that person will pass your name along when new homeowners once the time is right.
Build your online presence
Many blue-collar jobs, such as landscape architecture, masonry and cabinetry, lend themselves well to visuals. Maintaining an online portfolio for these jobs can help you define your brand and improve your visibility in the field.
And while social media is often marketed to white-collar workers as a means of networking, a number of blue-collar employers use it to find new talent, says Grove.
But in order to stand out online, you need to be active on the sites. For example, Wooden recommends creating a professional Instagram page where you can post photos of your work. Tweeting regularly on industry news can also help you establish your expertise.
Wooden suggests joining industry-specific social media groups, participating in online forums and connecting with alumni who work at prospective employers.
Put in some face-time
Despite its many benefits, online networking should not replace networking in person.
“You can network through your religious organization, civic organizations and even at your kid’s soccer games by talking with the other parents,” says Wooden.
Doing volunteer work is another way to meet fellow blue-collar professionals in your community. (You can find opportunities through your local chamber of commerce.)
You’ll also want to join trade associations and labor unions so that you can gain access to their networking events, says Grove; volunteering on a committee can give you even greater exposure to recruiters.
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