Networking is not something only executives do. It’s not something only outgoing, super-confident people can do. It doesn’t happen only online, and it’s not just for cocktail parties anymore.
Networking is simple: It means talking with people with similar interests or career goals in the hopes of mutually assisting each other. Family members network with each other when they pass along career advice. Friends network when they share job leads. Students network with teachers when they talk about industry trends and company info.
If you have ever received a job lead from a friend or had a conversation with anyone about the job market, then you have networked. Congratulations!
Tips for Effective Networking & Turning Contacts Into Job Leads
Effective networking comes from listening, not talking. Talkative, outgoing people might seem like the best networkers, but that’s not always true. Listen to what the other person’s goals and challenges are. Listen for areas where the other person needs help or could use more information. Listen to advice about job searching and career development. People love to talk about themselves. The more they talk, the more understanding and courteous you seem – two things any employer would want in a new employee.
Who makes the best networking contacts? Everyone you know! Each person might not have immediate job leads for you, but he/she could have career development advice and/or know someone-who-knows-someone-who-knows-someone with a job lead.
Don’t discount a potential networking contact if they don’t immediately give you a job lead or valuable information. Developing relationships is key to networking. And someone with good job leads is more likely to give them to someone with whom they have a relationship, not someone they only met once at a party.
When attending networking events (association meetings, job-search events, birthday parties, family get-togethers, etc.) have specific, realistic goals.
- To meet and get contact info for 5 new people
- To talk with someone working at Acme Company
- To be visible at the event and be regarded as associated with the industry
Follow up and send thank-you notes. After each introduction, follow up immediately with an e-mail to confirm contact information and remind the other person of what you talked about. At any time, if an interview or solid contact with an employer results from a networking contact send a thank you note. Everyone likes to know when he/she has had a hand in helping someone out.
Network with people who you like not just people who have valuable information. Long-term networking contacts often develop into friendships, client relationships or employers. Plus, it’s easier to find genuine reasons to keep in touch with people who you get along with.
Networking is no good if you are not letting the other person know your career goals. Memorize 3-5 things about your skills and experience that you can quickly repeat to someone when introduced. Mention specific technical skills, your education/training and a few soft skills (customer service experience, communication skills, etc.) This is also known as your “elevator speech.”
Example: “I have two years experience as an office assistant, and training in project management from my classwork at Whatever College. My bachelor’s degree and my work experience in customer service have prepared me for project support jobs. I have worked with a variety of industries, but my specialty is …”
Call/email networking contacts every one-two months to keep each other updated. What do you say when you call/e-mail your contacts?
- I found this interesting article and thought you might be interested in reading it.
- The last time we spoke you mentioned you have an upcoming project. I have a former coworker who might be able to help you with it.
- Could you critique my updated resume?
- I talked with an employer and am not sure what my next step should be. Any suggestions?
Networking is a two-way street. One person might have more job leads than the other, and the other person might be able to share information about the industry from reading trade publications. The best networking contacts are those who give as much as they receive.
Networking is about building relationships, not continuously begging for job leads. Be respectful of all networking contacts’ time and their efforts. Don’t be too pushy, impatient or ask too much of any one contact.