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A professional network creates career opportunities

Frederik Lundberg works as a project leader in the company Agilent. Several of his new hires have come via references and information from the network. He has worked for Novo Nordisk and Novozymes, and more. Education: Master of Science in Chemistry from DTU 2005, and HD in Economy Management and Process Management from CBS, 2012.
Photo: Kasper Løjtved.

Marianne Bom & Rie Jerichow, Publicér

Having a professional network is an advantage on the labour market, says Frederik Lundberg, who is a mentor and has 14 years of experience as an engineer. But how do you get a network?

When private companies have a job opening, they often look into their network. It happens with six out of ten new hires in large private companies, and in 70 percent of the instances in smaller companies, shows 2019 recruitment analysis from the consulting company Ballisager.
The companies also use other channels to find new employees. Job listings are most common, followed by networks, and searches on the networking portal LinkedIn. The frequent usage of networks confirms that it can be an advantage to know ”someone who knows someone” when you’re looking for a job. “It can be hard, as a recent graduate, to get started on creating a professional network. But it is important to get started. It takes a long time to work up and maintain a network, and you cannot wait until you need it,” says Frederik Lundberg.
He is an experienced engineer and has been a mentor for more than 40 people in collaboration with DTU, IDA, Copenhagen Career Programme, and others. “The conversations with younger people are often about how to get started. The start can be hard, but the more people are in the network, the bigger you can make it,” says Frederik Lundberg.

Frederik’s tips for creating a network
Meet people face-to-face. “The more you can meet people face to face, the better. I am personally not very outgoing, but when I am in the situation, I still like to participate in the conversation. It is about imagining what the other person would like to talk about, and starting from there. The better you are at fairs and conferences, the more you should do it. But give the direct dialogue a chance, even if you think it is hard. That also goes for phone conversations — they can be better than mails at leading to a dialogue. Avoid email canvases where you send the same email to everyone.”

Be ready for hit and miss
“As a young engineer, you might feel that you do not have a lot of input to give. You have to prepare for the dialogue you would like to have, and then get the courage to talk to people. At first, it might seem a bit hit and miss. Sometimes it works out, other times it doesn’t.”

Tips for an elevator pitch
To be able to present yourself with relevant information is a good thing when you network. This is called an elevator pitch. It lasts half a minute to two minutes. You tweak it every time for the person you are talking to. It’s a good idea to practice. This is how to do it:

    • Make a catchy start, where you start in the receiver’s world. They have to experience
      your contact as relevant: “You are in the middle of an interesting situation…”
      or “I share your interest in xxx”.
    • State your name clearly and your title if you have one.
    • Give a concrete example of the needs you can cover, or the problem you are
      interested in solving.
    • Make an open ending that can create a dialogue, if relevant: “Can we speak later..?”.

Source: Teknisk Landforbunds guide for students https://tl.dk/karriere/studerende/guides/.

Call for every job you apply for
“You have to get hold of the person who is going to hire you. It’s not all that common for applicants to call, but you can call for five minutes and hear what they are interested in. That way, you get knowledge about the company and if you have a good dialogue, you might get your name on the board. Maybe you do not get the job, but maybe the person remembers you two years later when they have an opening again.”

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Build a network on LinkedIn
“When you think that there has been meaningful contact, invite people to your network on LinkedIn—for instance, if you have had a correspondence or talked at a meeting. LinkedIn is effective, because people can find you again and you get access to your network’s network.”

Give sustenance to your network
“Eventually, a network is formed. If you are active in the network and keep the contact, it can grow quickly. Then it is important to be generous and help others maintain the relation. You start by giving — not taking. It can be by helping with references or sharing knowledge, for instance. Then you get a reputation as someone you can ask for help. Be generous, but be careful not to be so generous that it takes up too much of your time.”

Find a sparring partner
“In all universities and in a lot of organisations, it’s possible to get a mentor or a sparring partner, if you need it. I think you should find someone who is just a bit further along in their work life than where you are. Then the person has fresh memories about the point you’re at. It’s important that you are serious and that you want to evolve. You have to be ready to move on the places you were looking for help on. Otherwise you are wasting your own and the other person’s time.”