Make networking your advantage in a knowledge-based job market

When I lost my job in what I thought being my dream company after only one year of employment, as young southern European, I thought my career ran in a dead end. I did love that job, I was fairly good at that and my colleagues were very satisfied with me. As one of the best soldiers in the industry army, I always looked at my objectives with ambition, performed at my very best and, finally, checked them out as completed. But that day in which someone announced a cut-over of the personnel, I realized that the job market is not an army: it’s a far more complex and dynamic setting where, in order to fit, employees should be as much resilient as they can.

And here came my first epiphany

There was a flowering macrocosm just beyond my nose: I just simply gotta raise my eyes and look at all the opportunities around me. And I’m not merely talking about job opportunities: I mean networks of people, courses, certifications and hundreds of activities that can definitely help to find out one’s way while developing as a person, those that are known as ‘soft skills’. One of those skills, which I never thought about before, was intercultural communication.

As a Ph.D. and professional with a pretty international background, I came to meet people from all over the globe in my journey. I even attended a course in ‘Intercultural Studies & Communication’ while studying microtechnologies in France, which I never added to my CV before, as I thought to be not relevant for an employer. And there lied my fault.

By calling the HRs and managers responsible for the job advertisements for which I was applying and by networking with other people in search for a job (from both my previous employment and my private network), I discovered that such a skill and, more generally soft skills, can make the difference when choosing a candidate.

The point is that there’s plenty of technically skilled professionals out there and, there’s a good probability that, if they had applied for the same position I applied too, they would also have had a very competitive technical background for that position.

And so, how to stand out of the line?

What I learned from my network is to gather my soft skills together and understand why they could be a professional advantage. Sticking to international studies’ example, I understood and I believe that they are extremely relevant to be a great team performer in our globalized society, where the ability to communicate across cultural boundaries has gained a clear prominence. This is just one of the many examples of how much soft skills can be relevant in your job search – find more in Lone Skriver’s post: Make global skills work for you.

Soft skills are indeed a great representation of how much you have wanted to develop your personality and your professional profile at a more elevated level by challenging yourself and moving out of your comfort zone.

Finding a new job is often tough and exhausting, trying to find relevant reasons and real examples from your past which give concreteness to your list of skills. However, my experience taught me that it is also an occasion for investing time and energies in shaping yourself as a better person too. And networking activities are one of the best means to do it.

Networking is….

Networking is sharing experience, knowledge, and sources of inspiration. Networking is time-consuming but, as social animals, it let us look at ourselves, at the events and the opportunities around us from different angles. I wouldn’t have found my new job without the input of my network.

I have spent hours with my previous colleagues drinking coffee and noting down their perception of me as a person and as a professional, as well as talking about the possible perspectives ahead. I have also asked my network about available job positions which were still not posted and possible courses which would have made my CV more appealing for the job market.

And I gave something back too. I provided feedbacks to my previous colleagues, I looked at their CVs and tried to come up with valuable tips. This experience made me think that I wanted to start a mentorship program, to mentor a master student throughout an Academic year to help her find her way in her professional future. I believe this is a great way to use my experience and, also, grow.

Networking as an essential part of our knowledge-based market

In the last decade, the job market has become a knowledge-based market, where there is a continuous flow of giving and taking, and employees are not simply part of a problem-solving army: they are hired also based on their soft profile. We are people, not soldiers, and our culture matters in the global business era.

Career transitions to a new role, or to a new job, always bring career challenges as well as career opportunities. The only way you can approach them is with a positive attitude. The first bullet point in my life-learnings’ list is that will is power if you stay positive and invest efforts and sacrifices towards your objectives.

Undoubtedly, one of these efforts is to constantly educate and challenge yourselves with learning in new fields out of our comfort zone. We probably have ninety years to live in this world and it’s unreasonable to think that our education ends at the end of our Academic career. With learning, I also mean learning about ourselves as people, by developing self-awareness and understanding what makes ourselves unique. And in my view, the most effective way to learn about both these aspects is to stay proactively busy with courses, events, and of course initiatives in a well-branched network.

Chiara Canali is a pharma and biotech professional and expert networker. She is also a Key Resource person at here we are. She is of Italian nationality and currently lives in Denmark.

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