Mapping your warm network

A simple way to begin your independent career exploration is to map your existing network. Looking at who you know and what they do.

This strategy is complementary to the strategies of 'Expanding your knowledge of organisations' and 'Searching job boards by skills'. They are interconnected and can be used together.

For this strategy, an assumption is made that you have a LinkedIn account. Whilst it is possible to use this strategy without LinkedIn, it is more powerful if you do use it. If you would like to make or modify your LinkedIn profile we recommend looking at our in-depth resources.

In the networking cluster of the Learning and Development section we provide an overview of the LinkedIn platform, how to build an effective profile and how to overcome any barriers you have to engaging with LinkedIn.

The value of your warm network

By warm network, we mean everyone with some knowledge of you in a professional or personal capacity. These are people you already feel comfortable speaking to. They include:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Colleagues
  • Ex-colleagues
  • Acquaintances

Looking closely at what these people around you do for a career can stimulate new ideas.

These people are also the ones that will be most receptive to you reaching out for more insight.

Mapping your network is not only valuable for career exploration, it has been shown to be beneficial in an academic research context too.

The visual representation of a researcher’s network, or Network Plot, has been shown to be powerful for understanding your role within a research community, as well as for reflecting on your experiences (Sala-Bubaré and Castelló, 2017). 

Creating your own network map

As a logged in user, you can find 'My warm network' on your portal dashboard and store the names and details of people in your network and add to them over time. But physically mapping out your warm network can help you to visualise and make associations. You can do this on a large piece of paper or using a digital drawing tool. Position yourself at the centre and draw lines connecting you to others. Ask yourself:

  • Who do you know?
  • What do they do?
  • Which of their careers most interest you?

Critically assess who to include in your map. Keep in mind that those closest to you can act as sources of support as well as potential leads for career information. Highlight those you feel closer to and those you are more reluctant to engage with.

Your map can be used to identify people to reach out to for further insight. But when you're just starting to explore, use the map to stimulate further research.

If you find someone's career particularly interesting, look further into their role and organisation. You can expand your research in that direction.

As they are your personal contacts, you may wish to have some informal chats at this early stage. When you do speak to people, let them know your current thinking with regards to careers.

Perhaps they know someone with that career. You could ask them to connect you with that person. Keep in mind that you may also have some suitable contacts for them. Be prepared to swap names and provide introductions.

For this strategy, and the others, it's a good idea to record your findings from your research and conversations so that you have something to return to. You could use this template or make your own log or spreadsheet.

Suggested task

Login or register to add these tasks to your personal development plan.

Enhancing your map with LinkedIn

With a LinkedIn account, you will have built connections over time. If you don't have a profile, use our tips to start building one.

Look on LinkedIn and ask yourself who are your closer connections and who are more distant. Take a look at their jobs - what do they do and is it of interest to you?

If you are a logged in user of the Prosper portal, you can then add the details of these people to your network. You can also add them to your map and extend it further as you make new LinkedIn connections.

For a simple way to view your LinkedIn contacts and what they do, you can download an archive of your connections. To do this, on your LinkedIn profile go to the 'Data Privacy' option under 'Settings and Privacy'.

You could even automate the process and create your own network visualisation directly from your LinkedIn connections. But do bear in mind that deliberately taking the time to select the connections of most interest to you could aid your thinking and direct your subsequent research. 

Suggested task

Login or register to add these tasks to your personal development plan.

Next steps

Mapping your network, 'expanding your knowledge of organisations' and 'searching job boards by skills' all converge on the same action - to reach out to others for more insight.

Speaking to people with knowledge of an organisation or sector is the most effective way to find out more about a career. It also helps to build relationships and could lead to unanticipated job opportunities.

Networking in this way is extremely valuable and can help futureproof your career. Find out more about the power of networking and overcoming barriers to networking by following the links.

Meeting a person with the intention of discussing their career is also known as conducting an informational interview. We provide more guidance on how to arrange these interviews and what you could ask, here.

References

Sala-Bubaré, A., and Castelló, M. (2017), 'Exploring the relationship between doctoral students' experiences and research community positioning', Studies in Continuing Education, 39(1), pp.16-34.

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