Networking doesn't come easily to everyone, and it can be downright scary if you're suddenly thrust into the ranks of the unemployed. In today's shaky job market, it can be petrifying.
Scary, petrifying, or neither, networking must be a cornerstone of your job search strategy. If it doesn't come easily to you, follow these 10 commandments of networking:
- Thou shalt learn the ways of social media, even if it scares the crap out of thou. Build a social media presence, especially on LinkedIn. Then, contribute to discussion groups to demonstrate your professional expertise. Tip: Making a periodic adjustment to your profile can help move it toward the top of search rankings if someone were to do a web search for your name or, say, a previous employer.
- Thou shalt not limit thy networking efforts to the web. Social media is only an enabler. There's no substitute for face-to-face communication in the job search because you can discover much more about someone than what's posted on the web. So, attend job fairs and find job search support groups and professional associations in your area.
- Thou shalt giveth as gracefully as thou taketh. Don't engage with someone with the sole intent of finding a job lead or two. You have contacts. You have job leads that may not interest you but may interest someone else. Share that information with other job seekers. The more you're seen as a "giver," the easier it will be for others to share their contacts and leads with you.
- Thou shalt know thyself well. You must be able to articulate your skills and experience clearly, in writing and in casual conversation.
- Thou shalt not cometh off as stiff. Seriously, you gotta loosen up. Be congenial, look others in the eye, and show a genuine interest in what they say. Live in the moment!
- Thou shalt smile, even if it hurts. Smiling is usually equated with congeniality. If you're self-conscious about your yellow teeth, whiten them.
- Thou shalt have a business card and resume ready at all times. Go into each event thinking you'll meet someone who will want to know more about your background, and who may refer your name and contact information to someone else (possibly your next boss). Your business card and resume should include the URL to your web site or social networking profile.
- Thou shalt giveth thyself a thorough, critical self-evaluation after every in-person networking event. Take a few minutes to think about things you said and how you said them. If you think you could have expressed something better, make adjustments for the next event.
- Thou shalt wear the right clothing to every in-person event. Shorts and sandals won't cut it, unless it's a beach party or picnic. Proper business attire is appropriate for networking events unless the organizer states otherwise.
- Thou shalt not be a pain in the posterior. There's a fine line between staying in touch and stalking. Make sure every interaction — either in person, via email, or online — has substance and value.
Your mission in networking is to get hired while helping others get hired. It's serious stuff and there's potential in every substantive interaction. In today's economy, you need to explore every possible route to land the job.
What scares you most about networking? Or do you find networking easy? Share your thoughts with us.
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