You always hear about the benefits of networking, but is it actually working for you? Have you successfully uncovered job leads or made connections with potential employers through the people in your network? If you haven’t yielded any tangible benefits from your networking efforts, then it may be an indication that your approach needs some tweaking. By changing your networking strategy, you could open yourself up to new opportunities. Here are some tips to consider:
Approach it strategically. Your networking efforts are a lot more effective when you are working with a strategy in mind. When your approach to networking is all over the place, it is difficult to gain any momentum. However, if you are clear about who you want to connect with and for what purpose, it will be easier for you to make those connections and uncover opportunities.
Focus on building relationships. The savvy networker never forgets that networking is about people. If you sometimes find yourself getting so lost in a conversation that you forget that you are supposed to be networking, that is probably a good thing. Always remember that there is nothing more important than the person standing in front of you.
Learn how to talk about yourself. ‘So what do you do?’ If you are going to have any success with your network, you need to have an excellent response to this question. Keep it focused on your target job and your relevant qualifications. Be specific and detailed about your accomplishments and make sure that you target your pitch to the person that you are speaking to. Practice your professional introduction so that it sounds natural when you deliver it and be prepared to answer follow-up questions.
Be consistent. Have you ever noticed that people always say to ‘build’ a network? While it may initially sound strange, that is exactly what you are trying to do. Your foundations are the people who you already know: your family, friends, acquaintances, and previous colleagues. These initial contacts can introduce to you the people who are then the second layer of your network. As you build those relationships, they may introduce you to people who they know. With a concentrated effort, it doesn’t take long to build up an impressive network, but you have to work at it every day. If you lose touch with people or you stop showing up for networking events, your network will start to dwindle. Take a few minutes out of every day to work on your network.
Help others. ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours!’ Reciprocity is key when you are building a network. Keep in mind that most people are very interested in learning about possible career or business opportunities. If you can connect your contacts to those opportunities (and introduce them to a decision maker in the company) they will be eternally grateful.
Many people shy away from networking and you may have a good reason not to make it your main job search strategy. However, since you will meet people in your day-to-day life anyway, there is no reason not to use these contacts to benefit your career.
(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of ratch0013 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)