If you want to build your network in Switzerland to get a new job, develop your career or simply increase your social network, it’s important that you keep a few things in mind.
Get clear about your goals
First of all, you need to know exactly why you are building your network. Building a network just for the sake of increasing the number of contacts is not a sufficiently good reason. If you are building your network for career reasons, you also need to be very clear about what you want. Therefore I suggest you walk through the next few points before you start reaching out to people. It will make your life and theirs a lot easier and also be much more effective.
1. Define what type of company you want to work at
Before you start contacting people, you need to know where you want to work. Describe your desired type of company. Is it a startup? A large corporation? What are its values? What are the people like who work there? Is it a modern, innovative organization? Is it in the private, public or non-profit sector?
2. Define what type of positions you want to work in or what responsibilities you want
This is very important. If you are an expert in a very specific area and do not want to change, this step is easy. However, most people are not such experts that they can’t change even slightly. Also, many people are not specific about what they want. If you are one of them, you might say that you are open to many types of positions or are a generalist. I don’t think there is such a thing as a generalist. Almost everybody is very good at something and less good at other things. So put together a clear list of positions you want to work in.
If you are one of those people where no specific position title might fit, list your responsibilities. When you do that, the position titles will fit your responsibilities. This way you stay flexible but define clear constraints.
3. Write down 20-100 companies you want to work at
This can be tricky if you don’t know the market well. You might only think about the large organizations or the ones, you see regularly in adverts. However, because you define what type of company you want to work at, you can start researching about such companies. Do a brainstorming, ask your friends what companies would fit into your description. Do an online search on Google or LinkedIn.
If you are already in Switzerland
If you are in Switzerland already or plan a trip to the beautiful country of the Alps, I highly suggest that you attend live events. I believe there is nothing that can replace the personal contact between two people. There are many events and organizations to choose from, I will list a few here.
1. Chamber of commerce
There are two main chambers that I know provide a lot of value because I attend events of them myself. Also, many people I know recommend these events. The first is the British Swiss Chamber of Commerce (bscc.co.uk) and the second is the American Swiss Chamber of Commerce (amcham.ch).
If you look at their event list, you will see why I mention them as very high value for your network building activities.
2. Expat organizations
There are a lot of these organizations to choose from in Switzerland. Glocals.com is a great source for such events. Also, Google for expat events or organizations in Switzerland and you will find many to choose from. Check meetup.com for more options.
3. Events around your hobby or passion
These events are generally social events. I use an example of one of my coaching clients here. He is a sailing fanatic since many years and is looking to relocate to Switzerland. Therefore he sought out specific people in his industry who are into sailing and starts talking with them about this topic to break the ice.
You can do the same thing around your hobby or passion. People usually connect very easily around a topic that fascinates them because they talk to each other on the same level about something that they truly care about.
Don’t forget the social events in your hurry for your next job. You can also find many of them on meetup.com or just use Google.
Find common ground
I already scratched the surface of this in the section above. To truly connect with somebody, you need to find something you both have in common. Forget about the approach of simply getting in contact with somebody because he or she could help you or because this person has a very interesting job title on LinkedIn.
A few examples of commonalities are nationality, language, past employer, current employer, interests, education, values, a shared connection and many more. All of these points connect you on a deeper level with the person you are about to get in touch with and will give you confidence and something to talk about.
Ask for referrals
One of my good friends is currently looking for a new job. She got in contact with a business owner who contacted her six months ago and wanted to hire her then. As she was not looking for a new job back then, she declined the offer. She asked me for advice on how to approach this situation.
First, she was reluctant to reach out to him as she declined the offer a few months ago and was not sure if they were still hiring. I told her, that she can only win. Either, he still is looking for somebody and will probably hire her immediately because she is great at what she does, or he will not be able to hire her himself but can certainly introduce her to other people in the industry as he speaks very highly of her.
You can follow a very similar approach when meeting with people you know well and who trust you. Ask them, who they think you should meet and who could benefit from meeting you. Find out who from their network could benefit from you and then do as much as you can to help out this person. This way, you provide a lot of value to both parties and will eventually get introduced to even more people.
Make building your network a habit
To establish it as a habit, you might want to schedule certain tasks that build your network on a daily basis and execute on them. I do this in OmniFocus, mostly on my iPad so I always have everything at hand. I plan my follow-up activities and remind myself to reach out to a certain amount of new people every week.
If you do execute on these tasks regularly, you will start building your network as a habit, everywhere you go.
Do you want to meet peers and potential hiring managers? Join the Career Network Switzerland and publish you personal mission statement in the discussion section. You can also directly connect with me on LinkedIn.
Challenge yourself on stepping out of the comfort zone
When you go out, instead of talking to the same people the whole night, start chatting with the friends of your friends that you don’t know yet. Schedule your network building tasks regularly and act on them. You don’t need to get in touch with a large amount of new people every day, try one.