Working can be difficult, but finding work can sometimes seem impossible. The everyday stresses of the workplace are undeniable, but people trying to break into the job market would be happy to trade the anxiety of unemployment for the demands that come with their chosen profession.
Just about everyone has had to look for work at some point in their life, and it is safe to say that there are few things more frustrating than a prolonged job search. The best way to make yourself an attractive employee is to build up your skills through studying, interning and volunteering. But without a professional network of people in your field, your capacity for greatness will likely go unnoticed.
Networking is a term that refers to many different types of human-to- human interaction. But they all lead to the same thing: a greater ability to get information and support on the way to a more successful career.
You do not have to be a social butterfly or a veteran in your field to build a broad network of professional contacts. Even if you are years away from entering the professional realm, it isn’t too early to make mutually beneficial personal connections that could last until the day you retire.
Just like building your professional skills, networking requires significant time and effort. But the challenge of becoming well connected in your sector shouldn’t be overwhelming.
To make it more manageable we asked career counsellors, industry experts and gainfully employed youth to offer their guidance on how to make your presence known.
The fact is, explained David Symansky, recruitment manager at the employment agency HR Inc, that the larger your professional network is, the more likely you are to succeed.
Whether you are employed or not, the likelihood of being introduced to new opportunities inevitably increases with the number of people you know.
Of course just knowing someone’s name isn’t enough, he added.
You need to reach out and let people know who you are and what you are capable of. Communicating your ideas with confidence is the first step toward gaining respect from potential employers, colleagues and possible future employees.
Networking builds trust, and when people are looking through a stack of CVs that have been submitted by strangers for a job opening, having a familiar face and a positive reputation can make you stand out among the crowd.
Strong professional contacts also make it much easier to get relevant and meaningful recommendations, which are crucial to employers to get a sense of your potential, said Si Len, programme manager for youth employment for social dialogue for the Cambodian Federation of Employers & Business Associations.
“There will be more chances to be selected for a job and the process will move faster than it will for people without [a strong support network.]”
Activities aimed at professional development, such as volunteering, community service or capacity building courses, are all great opportunities to make lasting connections.
But daily interactions can also lead to relationships that carry over into the professional realm.
When it comes to professional networks, bigger is always better, and any opportunity to meet people could be the one that gets you the job you’ve been waiting for. “I tried to participate in many events so that I can meet new people with new things to share,” said Charly Samsokrith, whose enthusiasm for meeting new people paid off when he got a job working with Sabay’s social media team, whose manager knew him through volunteer work at the BarCamp technology conference.
When forming professional contacts, you shouldn’t be selective based on your impression of the people you meet, said Ana Nov, general manger of ANG Khmer Group, because you never know what relationships will be valuable in the future.
“We need the trust of others to get our job done,” explained the young entrepreneur.
This can be gained “through all means of communication, associations or any other opportunities”.
The ability to seize informal opportunities to expand your network of contacts is invaluable. But as the country’s white-collar workforce is expanding there, you should also be sure to take advantage of events designed to bring together people moving the country forward. “Youth and Professional Events”, hosted by CAMFEBA, give students a chance to mingle with the people with whom they will eventually work, and provide a platform to practise the networking skills students will need after graduation.
While establishing contacts in Cambodia is essential, networking with people around the world is increasingly important in today’s global economy. “It’s fun to get to know a lot of people from all over the world,” said Seng Pyseth, an internationally connected student from the Royal University of Law and Economics.
He has become globally connected by capitalising on chances to participate in programmes, including the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in the United States and Sunburst Youth Camp.
It’s not always easy to break the ice in a social setting, and it can be even more difficult if you are mixing with older, more experienced people, but you have nothing to lose by introducing yourself. “Go out and try to meet new people because practice makes perfect,” said Symansky. “The more you network the better you will be at it.”