For the upcoming grads and the seasoned pros, networking is always one of the strongest tools in your arsenal. Networking is how you’ll make important connections and the find the jobs that aren’t listed. But if you need to brush up on your skills, read on!
1. Make It Known What You Are Looking For: The first step is the most obvious – get out there! Take advantage of every networking event your school, company, or industry offers. Send emails to your network friends and family. Talk about what you are going through with everyone you meet. If you don’t actually put yourself in front of people and share what you are looking for, you’ll have no hope of developing a network that can help you.
2. Build Relationships: It’s not enough just to hand a stranger your business card and hope they offer you a job. It’s all about trust. Have a conversation with a person that could be useful to you. Bond with them on a personal level, show off your personality, and offer them some insight into your professional persona and try to be helpful to them too by sending them an article that you think they’ll be interested in (even before you need something, like an introduction). Your relationships only count if they know you well enough to trust you in a professional capacity.
3. Diversify: Your network will be very limited if it only includes people like you. Don’t limit yourself to your own industry or your own social group. Sure, not every link in your network will offer you a job, but they’ll connect you to those who can and vouch for you to the people who matter.
4. Get Online with LinkedIn: We’ve come a long way from the days of MySpace. Without LinkedIn, many of us would have much smaller networks. Create your profile when still in college to build your network of classmates, who will soon become professional colleagues. Add anyone you meet through networking and you’ll have an easier time keeping up with them. Use LinkedIn to research people you’d like to meet, and you’ll find if you already have a mutual connection – this is your time to call in a favor.
5. Informational Interviews: You might think these are a waste of your time since there’s no job offer on the other end, but these interviews are a way to network, gather info, gain allies, and create the opportunity for introductions. You can also learn more about an industry, position, and company to determine whether it’s the best fit for you. Remember though: you’re not trying to finagle a job interview. If you’re interviewer thinks you have ulterior motives, you’ll end on a bad note. You’re only here for information, and – who knows – you just might end up with an inadvertent job offer from the right connection.
6. Stay Top of Mind: If you meet someone once and forget about them, they’ll forget about you too. Follow up with everyone you meet within 24 hours, and get back in touch occasionally to keep them posted on developments in your life and ask them about their own. Here’s a trick: jot down a note on the back of every business card you pick up to remember the key points about them – use the info when you follow up with them, and they’ll appreciate that you remembered the details.
Remember, they key to networking is developing real, personal relationships. A huge network of people you know only vaguely will be of little help to you. Create long-lasting relationships, look for opportunities to help your connections, and get out there!