3 Powerful Networks You May Not Know You Have

3 Powerful Networks You May Not Know You Have was originally published on Idealist Careers.

Even at the best of times, it’s natural to feel unsure of yourself when it comes to networking. You may be thinking, “I’ve reached out to my friends and colleagues, contacted my network on LinkedIn…but now what?” 

In the current climate, it’s important to take it a step further and access all your available resources when looking for a job—some which you may not even know you have.

Draw on alumni groups 

One resource that many of us forget we have is our college alumni association. Having attended the same university is a shared experience that can help kickstart conversations and working relationships. There are a lot of other ways in which an alumni association can be helpful:

  • Joining an alumni association opens you up to a whole new set of professional contacts. Recent graduates may even have the option of joining young alumni groups with events more targeted to their demographic. You can of course directly contact alumni on LinkedIn as well, but be clear about how you want to frame your message—are you requesting an informational interview, or do you want to informally get their take on a possible career path? People (fellow alums included) will be more receptive if you’re up-front about your reasons for contacting them.
  • Your alumni benefits often include continued free access to your university’s career services. This includes all the job listings, webinars, and other resources that go with it. And the great thing about alumni associations is that they’re already online with virtual content for alumni spread all over the world, so it’s easy to connect even during the pandemic.
  • If you’ve moved away from your college town, you can join a local alumni chapter in your area. As part of a smaller group you may get to know fellow graduates even more. Local chapters may also host panel discussions with featured alumni, career seminars, and networking events. 

Not sure if you’re if you’re registered with your school’s alumni association? it’s very simple to call them up and give them your current information (including any name changes). 

Look to parent groups for leads and support

If you have children, don’t forget that one group you’ve probably become very close with: parent groups. You may have met them through your child’s playgroup or class, or perhaps you joined a parenting support group online. There are some real benefits to tapping into this network:

  • Other parents can empathize. If you took time out of the workforce to focus on your family, other parents understand your situation and will often be eager to help you and put you in touch with people they know. 
  • Broaden your horizons. While other groups in your social circle may be more homogenous, chances are that you know parents in a wider variety of fields and without as much overlap. You may find work leads where you least expected. 
  • Grow your support network. Sometimes you’re just seeking moral support and advice during your job search. Since you’ve probably all served as a support system to each other at different times, you already have that level of trust and understanding there. And if you’re currently working, you might also get helpful support and suggestions through a working-parents group in the office. 

Connect with like-minded people in field-specific groups

If you’re looking to make connections with people in your particular field, consider joining a professional association. Although you will have to pay a membership fee, you will probably find the investment worth your while. 

  • Professional associations may have national, state, or regional chapters. Associations sponsor networking and educational events throughout the year (and yes, many have moved virtual this year). Associations often have career resources and job postings that are available only to members. 
  • You can get very specific and find associations that are relevant to your line of work. If, for example, you’re interested in fundraising, you could join the Association of Fundraising Professionals rather than a more general nonprofit association.
  • You may even find affinity groups within the professional association that are not available to you in your current position. This adds another level of connection and is a great way to build close bonds within your network.

Pro Tip: If you’re a student, you can take advantage of student membership rates at many professional associations.

It’s easy to overlook some of the networks you’re already part of (or that are easy to join). Especially now, remember that it only takes a few clicks to start connecting with alumni, fellow parents, or other nonprofit professionals.


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