Networking plays a critical role in the job search process. Unfortunately, many people continue to rely on job boards and other ineffective job search strategies. Here is a compilation of tips to help you maximize the networking process.
- Networking offers a path to the hidden job market. Eighty percent of jobs and business opportunities are found through networking, according to 6 Ways to Crack the Hidden Job Market.
- Networking is a long-term strategy that requires investing in relationship building. The time to network is not when you decide to search for a new job. It is while you have a job. Connect with others on a regular basis.
- Give to others before you ask for something. When you meet others’ needs, you build “social credit” and “relationship currency” and are more likely to have your needs met in return.
- The goal of networking is not to collect business cards; it is to make meaningful contact with people.
- In most cases, people really do want to help you, if they know what you want. But they may not have the power to hire you or connect you with someone who will hire you. Use a “magic statement” such as, “I don’t expect you to give me a job.” Follow up with, “Who else do you know that I could talk to?”
- You have the power! Employers do NOT have all the power unless you give it to them. Networking means finding people to talk to inside target employers. Ask questions. Be assertive as your own advocate. You are worth it and have something to offer. What appears to be their power may be their insecurity in talking to you.
- Value and cultivate your networks as you would your garden. Care for them and you’ll reap the rewards of the joy they bring to your life each day.
Before You Network
- Understand what types of networking activities you’re willing and unwilling to do. Categorize them as activities you will a) readily do, b) do if you push yourself, c) never do, even if paid big bucks to do so. Don’t waste time on activities in this final category as you will only set yourself up to fail.
- Networking can be intimidating. Many view it as asking for favors or bragging. Instead, try to envision networking as stepping out to meet people with similar interests.
- Whether you meet people online, on the phone, or face-to-face, remember that each one is a person, just like you. Be yourself. Relax. Listen attentively. Focus on getting to know them better than you did before this meeting or contact.
- Start by creating a list of all of the people you have worked with in the past. Include colleagues, suppliers, partners, customers, service providers, etc. Then divide the list into two separate lists: your favorites and non-favorites. Discard the non-favorites.
- Reach out to those you feel can champion you and support your job search.
- Schedule a meeting over coffee or by phone.
- Offer to buy that person a cup of coffee for an in-person meeting.
- Don’t underestimate the value of your nonprofessional networks. More often than not, there will be hidden gems of contacts—people who would benefit from knowing you professionally too.
- Identify a person you would like to meet and have someone in your network who knows that person make the introduction. LinkedIn’s Introduction feature is a good place to start.
- To motivate you to action, develop a set of networking objectives or goals that guide your direction.
- Smile—a genuine smile builds rapport and amiability.
- Dress appropriately for the event. If you are unsure about the dress code, call ahead and find out.
- Have an organized plan for the networking meeting. Know what questions to ask beforehand as well as which specific people you wish to engage in conversation. Set a goal to meet 3-5 people. Have a 5- to 10-minute conversation with each, exchange business cards, and connect on LinkedIn.
- Never work the room. Don’t stare over the shoulder of the person you are with, looking for your next target. Work instead on “being in the moment” with the person you are speaking with. Pay attention, be yourself, and aim to strengthen one relationship. Networking is about building genuine relationships, not about numbers.
- Use networking and career-related events as an opportunity to practice your networking skills. They are very low risk, as everyone is there to meet people. Most people are just as uncomfortable as you are and will appreciate your efforts to initiate a discussion. Practicing in a low-risk environment will strengthen your confidence for other types of networking.
- Seek out people who are standing alone or looking uncomfortable at events and introduce yourself. Make them feel comfortable and treat them as your guests, even if you are not hosting the event.
- Explain who you are and what you do in 30 seconds or less. Then ask people what they have been doing recently. A great icebreaker! By giving others enough interesting and relevant information about you, they will want to contact you for details.
- Don’t be too focused on your professional persona at the expense of letting them know the real you. Sharing a fishing story or something about your child’s first day at school helps you seem more approachable. Just keep the professionalism during the majority of your interactions. Bottom line: be authentic, be yourself.
- Ask others for their business cards first if you feel uncomfortable sharing yours. (Yes, even unemployed job seekers should have a professional networking business card).
- Have LinkedIn Mobile on your phone so you can access information on people you meet.
- See if you can get a list of attendees in advance for events you attend. Some networking groups provide an attendee list in advance of the event. Look up each attendee ahead of time and make a short list of 4-6 people you would like to meet. Make it your mission to meet all of them at the event. This will keep you moving through the event, rather than talking to one person for too long.
- Use the back of business cards you receive to note a few things you talked about with the person. This will help you remember them and give you the seeds for following up.
- Expand your network by sharing your “story” with people you meet in unconventional environments to avoid circulating with the same people repeatedly.
- Lend a favorite business book to someone to read. It’s a nice thing to do, plus it gives you a great excuse to get back in contact with that person.
- Attend as many networking events as often as you can. It’s a numbers game. The more events you attend, the more people you’ll meet.
- End the conversation quickly and walk away if you encounter a rude or abusive person. You are in search of positive and uplifting experiences.
- Treat everyone you meet with respect. The decision maker is not always the CEO.
- Send a simple, professional “nice to meet you card” through surface mail to individuals you meet and network with at events. This can generate calls from them asking to learn more and offering to help, and will warm up your network the next time you meet face-to-face.
Social Media Networking
- Ask others for their opinions about interesting facts you come across and share or comment upon. It shows you value their expertise and is a great conversation builder.
- Make social media social. To foster a discussion, email group members outside the group thanking them for the question, post, or comment.
- Strike up a conversation by talking about what you enjoy doing. Establishing similar interests will help you broaden your networking resources and ease you into comfortable dialogue in establishing new relationships.
- Set up a private Facebook group and invite anyone you meet in social media who you think has the same interests as you. Continue more in-depth and confidential discussions outside of the public social media group where you met.
- Expand your reach on groups such as Twitter and LinkedIn. This allows you to make career-related connections with a broad range of people.
- Focus your social media time on cultivating a smaller strategic subset of individuals for a meaningful, high-value exchange of industry information, leads, resources, and ideas.
- Interact with Twitter followers directly. Get to know their interests, and then invite them to an offline conversation.
- Join networks or groups that meet your personal and professional needs. Don’t just be a member; contribute your expertise.
After You Network
- Follow up! Ask for business cards and follow up with everyone you meet, asking for an offline conversation when it is applicable.
- Connect with everyone you meet on LinkedIn and always personalize the connection. Tell them how you know them or why you’d love to connect with them. When they connect, start a conversation.
- Send thank you notes. Always have business note cards and stamps handy. Send them to all those who help you with a meeting, phone call, referral, etc. Expedite with an email or electronic thanks. Follow up with a thank you sent by surface mail. People are always touched by a heartfelt “thanks”.
- Send a note, an article, or an update after meeting with people. Show that you care about their ideas and input. Keep the relationship going, even if it is only quarterly or less.
- Pick up the phone (not to type on it, but to call from it)—you’ll stand out, be more memorable, and show your sincerity.
- Keep track of whom you talk to, how they helped you, and how you can help them, whether with an Excel spreadsheet or a simple notebook. As you network, your activities will have a domino effect. Keeping track and acting upon it will make all the difference in your networking success.
- Deliver. If you said you would do something, do it within one to two days. And pat yourself on the back for giving back.
- Remember, “Your money is in the follow-up.” This sales saying is also true of networking events and job fairs. The value is in what you do after the event with the contacts you make. People who go to job fairs expecting to be hired on the spot are usually disappointed. People who follow up after job fairs stand out because so few of their competitors will bother. Typically, 80% of sales are made on the 5th or 12th contact—this is why follow-up is so important.
Additional Networking Resources
100 Conversations for Career Success: Learn to Network, Cold Call, and Tweet Your Way to Your Dream Job
~ Laura M. Labovich & Miriam Salpeter
Social Networking for Career Success
~ Miriam Salpeter
Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies
~ Joshua Waldman
Knock ’em Dead 2015: The Ultimate Job Search Guide
~ Martin Yate
Relationship Economics: Transform Your Most Valuable Business Contacts Into Personal and Professional Success
~ David Nour
The Heart and Art of NetWeaving: Building Meaningful Relationships One Connection At a Time
~ Bob Littell
Get Hired Now! A 28-Day Program for Landing the Job You Want
~ C.J. Hayden
How to Win Friends and Influence People
~ Dale Carnegie
Networking for Job Search and Career Success
~ L. Michelle Tullier
Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time
~ Keith Ferrazzi
Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success
~ Anne Baber & Lynne Waymon
The MBA Guide to Networking Like a Rockstar: The Ultimate Guide to Navigating the Complex MBA Landscape & Developing Personal Relationships to Stand Out Among Top-Caliber Candidates
~ Jaymin Patel
Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need
~ Harvey Mackay