Get out and build a network of
connections before you need them
Networking skills are essential to every balanced job search. These days, hiring managers and decision-makers are more likely to talk to candidates who have been recommended by someone they know and trust. Particularly in the case of job-hunting. In this extremely competitive market, networking can be the difference between scoring a job or not. For most people, successful networking doesn't come naturally. It often takes practice and a lot of trial and error to master the art of networking. Learn some of the basics of effective networking below.
Know Your Networks
By definition networking is meeting and keeping in contact with people with similar interests and/or or in the same or similar industries or professions. A golden rule in the art of networking is that relationships should be two-sided and mutually beneficial. According to networking guru Dr. Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of Business Network International, there are four types of networks, and you should strive to be active in each.
- Casual contact networks (networking events or industry mixers)
- Knowledge networks (professional associations)
- Strong contact networks (groups that meet frequently specifically to build professional relationships)
- Online networks (professional social media services, such as LinkedIn)
Attend Conferences and Networking Events
You won't be able to network if you're not visible. People need to know who you are so you can start building those important relationships. Conferences and networking events are good ways to meet like-minded professionals in a more relaxed setting. Go in with the intention of making several meaningful connections instead of trying to meet every person. When you leave the conference, you’ll have a list of people with whom you can continue building strong business relationships. Being active in your industry trade association can afford similar benefits. Many people think that joining the organization is enough, but to capitalize on the return on your investment you need to be engaged and participate in the meetings as well.
Prepare an 'Elevator Speech'
Write a summary of what you want people to know about you that can be delivered in less than 30 seconds. Say your name, who you work for and a bit about your background. Practice what want to say at home, so you can time the pitch and also practice including all pertinent information. Make it sound natural, no forced or rehearsed.
Consider Creating a Business Card
Business cards are not only for employees of a company. If you are looking for a job, you’ll want an easy way to convey your contact information to people you meet at networking events. Keep the design understated and professional. At the bare minimum, make sure the cards have your name, email address and phone number, and a brief descriptor of your profession – such as “Skilled Communications Professional” or “Experienced Accountant.”
Earn the Right to Tell Your Story
A good networker listens as much as s/he talks. When you meet someone new, ask him or her a lot of questions – and pay attention to the answers. Have the conversation you’d have if you weren’t job-hunting.
Mastering the art of networking does not happen overnight. It just takes some patience, careful attention to other people’s needs, and the willingness to follow up with the new contacts you make. As you make those follow-up phone calls and send your day-after-the-networking-event email messages, you’ll naturally offer to help your new contacts as readily as you’ll ask for help yourself. When you start to care about one another, you've developed a solid professional contact.
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