Knowing How to Work Networking
The concept of networking to learn about and get access to job opportunities has flourished since the late 20th century and become a critical component of job seekers’ and business owners’ success strategies. With the digital age, networking has extended from strictly face-to-face encounters to social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. So, with all the job search-related tasks you need to undertake --- from researching prospective employers, to writing, updating and sending resumes and cover letters --- how can you fit in networking? More importantly, how can you make sure you’re doing it right?
Even if there are only a few people you consider part of your current “network,” the whole process of networking will allow you to build out and strengthen that network. You’ll also build some relationships with people that could become lifelong contacts and even friends.
Below are our suggestions for networking efficiently and effectively during your job search.
Build your network starting with who you know
Think about who among your family and friends can be part of your network and meet with them to talk from a business and job-seeking perspective. They will likely know people they can introduce you to, which will get you started on expanding your list of contacts. Also think about people you know from school (classmates, teachers, advisors) and previous jobs (co-workers, supervisors) that you can reach out to. Talking with them will be informative and help build your confidence. They’ll share their job search experiences, advise you on networking techniques and give you the practice you’ll need for future one-to-one conversations with new contacts.
Explore your other affiliations
Are you part of a professional association, college alumni organization or a book club? The people in all of these groups are potential networking contacts too. As you work to expand your network, you want to connect with these folks as well. Because of your shared affiliation, you may find you also have common interests and mutual acquaintances.
Ease into conversations
When you go to networking events, you may find groups of people engaged in conversation and wonder how you can join in. The trick is to approach the conversations that seem most interesting and relevant and just listen for a while. Rather than acting on the need to jump into the conversation with a comment or opinion, look for a natural break in the conversation to pose a question to the group. The group will be more responsive to this approach, especially since it will keep the conversation flowing.
Listen as much as you talk
When networking, you will often talk to people who are looking for connections and opportunities as well. You may be eager to tell them about what you’re looking for, but make sure you give them equal time. Ask questions that show you really want to get to know them, not just find out what they can do for you.
Value every connection
You may meet someone and think that they could never help you, but you never know what could happen down the road. That person may turn out to be a resource for information or a link to a desired connection. Also, you may be able to help them some day. One of the principles of networking is to ask and think about how you can help the people you meet, not just how they can help you.
Maintain regular contact with the most valuable connections
Figure out who among your contacts is going to be most instrumental to moving your career forward and regularly touch base with them. They could be a former boss, mentor, co-worker or customer who has relevant connections or can provide a strong reference. They could also be someone you can see is going places and may be very valuable to know down the road. By checking in with them and inquiring how they are doing in their life or career, you can further solidify your relationship and stay top-of-mind with them.
Find a way to help or inform those you want to connect with
If there’s a high-profile contact (e.g. someone wealthy or very successful) who you would like to have in your network, find out what their interests, goals and concerns are. You may find an article they’ll like, learn about an opportunity they might want to pursue or know a person that could help them address a problem.
Work your online social networks
You may already have a Facebook page and perhaps also a Twitter account, but you should definitely make sure you have a LinkedIn account. While Facebook and Twitter work well for networking, LinkedIn is a more business-oriented social networking site that is mainly used for professional networking. Your profile on LinkedIn should be up-to-date, containing your most recent experience and explaining where you currently are on your career path. If you’re the perfect candidate for a position, you want the hiring managers who find you to see an exemplary profile. To further aid your job search, you should also network with LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry and job search. Connections you form in these groups could steer you to job opportunities and make introductions to target employers, as well as help you further expand your network.
Commit yourself to attending certain events regularly
You may want to check out every networking event at first, but after you do, select a few that you continue to attend on a regular basis. Once people at these events see you making repeat visits and get to know you, you become established with them and developing connections and relationships is that much easier.
Whether you’re going to a networking event or one-to-one meeting with a new contact, always have business cards containing your contact info and a prepared one-minute "elevator pitch" (for example: "I am a [your job title] at [your company] and [what you do in layman's terms] and [why you love it or want to make a change]. By knowing ahead of time what you are going to say about yourself and your job search goals, you will come across as determined and confident. Also, be prepared to answer any questions that might be asked of you and have questions ready to ask the other people you engage with.
Remember that with networking, you want to go in with the right attitude and think about the referrals, advice or assistance you can give as much as get. Networking is an activity you should conduct throughout your career and not just when you’re in a job search. By maintaining and building your network of business contacts, you can form meaningful relationships that can have a direct impact on your life path as well as your career.
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