You hear it everywhere; to secure a new job you have to network, network, network, but the idea of introducing yourself to a room full of strangers sends your belly into a series of spasms, and causes you to break out in a chill. Networking can be so much easier than this! Follow these dos and don’ts to take the "ick" out of networking.
Most of networking is just being friendly with people you don’t know, and curious about the world. Turn on your listening skills and ask more questions than talk. This can be in line at the grocery store, at your child’s gymnastics class or at the coffee shop.
Networking should stem from a desire to help others. You can provide advice, referrals, introductions and the individual you’re networking with will ask how they can help you in return.
Attend in person events such as user group meetings in your field, job hunting groups or general meetings through organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. Most of these events are facilitated, making it easier to engage with people you don’t know.
Running into a neighbor at the grocery store is a form of networking. My first recruiting role stemmed from a conversation I had with the woman on the treadmill next to me at the gym.
If the majority of your networking occurs over social media or through email introductions, try to meet people face to face. Face to face connections allow for sharing of both personal and career related information, and thus facilitates longer term relationships.
If a conversation goes beyond a quick introduction, share more personal details about your life such as whether or not you have children, your hobbies and interests in travel. Connecting with someone on a non-work level often makes you more memorable.
Very few of us are so extroverted that we are comfortable approaching strangers at events. Most people are as shy and uncomfortable as you, so feel okay initiating a conversation. It’s like a dance and everyone’s waiting for someone to be the first on the dance floor.
When you meet someone and agree to share connections or referrals, don’t let too much time pass before following up. To network and not follow up or never reach out to the person again, doesn’t work. Relationships are built over time and trust. Prove that you’re timely and that you follow through, and people will be more inclined to help you.
Once you’ve built your network, keep building. Continue to help others secure employment by introducing them to people who you know. Keep attending industry events. The connections you make can build a network of support to help you work through tough business problems. And, if you find yourself facing a job search (unexpected or not), you don’t have to start from scratch - your network is already there and you’ll find yourself gainfully employed much more quickly.
Networking should be something you do on a regular basis and something you maintain. If you’re a scheduler, then put a calendar reminder to follow up with a contact you recently met. Networking builds friendships, allows you to give back and help others, and can offer warm introductions for job leads, sales leads and more. Attend an event, look through your contacts, schedule a coffee date today.
More expert advice about Finding a New Job
Photo Credits: My Social Network by Flickr: Luc Legay; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com