The biggest mistake people make in networking is focusing on what they want, rather than on connecting and listening to others. If you want your networking to be truly effective, the goal should be focused on helping others and making memorable connections.
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The Importance of Professional Networking
Anything you can do to stand out against the sea of job-seeking competitors can help you get the job you want. Having the right contacts (made through networking) can get you the inside scoop that can help you tailor your resume for what the company really wants, or can even provide the hiring manager with a good word or two about you. Considering that most jobs come through personal connections, building your network should be a high priority on and off the job search.
Networking for Success
Networking takes work and practice. Here are a few tips to help you make your networking truly successful.
1. Give as much as you get. When you think, “how can this person help me,” you’ll be disappointed. However, when you are offering help to others, you’ll find them far more open to the idea of helping you down the road. Forming relationships built on trust will help you be the person your contacts think of the next time they can find a way to help you.
2. Be proactive. Networking doesn’t just happen. You need to be active in your efforts and make sure you get out and meet people. Start by talking to everyone you meet at business meetups, trade shows, and conferences.
3. Develop your networking strategy. Prepare your elevator speech explaining who you are and what you do, and practice enough that you sound like a natural. Schedule at least two or three events a month, and find groups that you want to join so that you build relationships through the monthly meetings.
Have a stack of business cards ready to hand out. You don’t want to be the person who works the room racing to collect and hand out your cards, though. Save the exchange for when you have a conversation. People can sense greedy networkers who are there to work the room and add as many contacts to their mailing list without permission. Being genuine sells, so be prepared to ask plenty of questions of others, and keep in mind that you’re trying to help them first, not the other way around.
4. Stay positive. It’s easy to let yourself get down and lose self esteem when you’ve been rejected in the job hunt, and this can affect everything, including your networking skills. Staying positive makes you approachable and memorable. Consider each networking event an opportunity to learn something new or meet someone interesting.
5. Take full advantage of opportunities. With networking opportunities abounding, make sure you actually attend them. Networking only works if you put yourself out there and to start talking to people. Let your guard down and be aware of what your body language communicates.
6. Don’t forget social media. While it’s true that in-person meetings solidify relationships, when it comes to networking, many relationships can either start or flourish through social networking. Use sites like Twitter and Facebook to stay in touch with people you’ve met in person, as well as to network with others, such as people who work at the company you’re interested in.
Honing your networking skills will serve you well throughout your professional career, especially when job searching. Networking takes time and relationships won’t develop overnight, so be patient. By making a point of consistently meeting new people, you will learn from others about your industry, profession, and the companies you’re interested in. You might even find your perfect job you would have never known about otherwise!
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.