- Networking offers a path to the hidden job market, almost 80% of jobs and business opportunities are found this way. That is a huge number!
- 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.
- 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.
- Value and cultivate your networks and you’ll reap the rewards of the joy they bring to your life each day.
Before You Network
- 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. Reach out to those you feel can champion you and support your job search. Schedule a meeting over coffee or by phone.
- 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.
- 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.
- To motivate you to action, develop a set of networking objectives or goals that guide your direction.
- Smile and dress appropriately for the event.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Treat everyone you meet with respect. The decision maker is not always the CEO.
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.
- 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 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.
- 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.