It’s gotten to the point where “job seeker” can be a synonym for “discouraged.” This is where networking tips come in! How are you supposed to overcome the competition to land an appropriate job? Especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve had to look for a position, you have a lot of obstacles to overcome. You know it’s futile to sit around and bemoan how tough it is to land a job; it’s up to you to act: stretch your network.
Networking tips: how to stretch and expand your network
Your first order of business is to network effectively and efficiently. Consider the following tips to make sure your networking is working:
Solidify your pitch. If you can’t tell someone what you’re good at in 15 seconds or less, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Before you do another thing, write down three skills you want people to know about you and list some matching accomplishments. Write down the answer to the question, “What do you do?” in 35 words or less. Memorize it so you will be ready to introduce yourself professionally and succinctly next time you have the chance.
Make a concerted effort to grow your network. Get out of the house and find places to practice your pitch and introduce yourself. Attend in-person events to meet new people, both at professional and social gatherings. Consider attending events without friends or family members so you’ll be more likely to meet new contacts.
Don’t ask for a job. Everyone says that you need to tell everyone you are looking for a job, but that’s not your best bet. You’ve been there: a job seeker approaches and asks for opportunities. Even if you did know of a position, you’d probably wait to pass along the information until you were sure your new contact was worthy of risking your professional reputation.
Instead of telling everyone you’re a job seeker, make a point to get to know people you meet personally and be generous with your expertise. Do not ask for a job or an opportunity; have conversations that lead to follow-up meetings so you’ll have more chances to make good impressions that do lead to referrals.
Be a good listener. You’ll be surprised by how many new contacts you will impress when you listen well. Most people tend to talk a lot when they meet someone, so when you ask a lot of questions and appear very interested (whether or not you are interested), you’ll make an impression and possibly win a new friend who may be willing to make an introduction for you.
Be helpful. It’s one thing to meet a lot of people, it’s another to focus on what you can do for the new people you meet. Especially if you’re a frustrated job seeker, it’s easy to forget that you have a lot of skills and ideas to share. You may have suggestions or ideas to help your new contacts. Think first about what you can do for other people, and you’ll be more likely to attract generous networking contacts to you.
One way to be helpful is to investigate local professional organizations and learn about opportunities to get involved with their leaders. These groups are always looking for skilled volunteers, and they’ll welcome you with open arms. Be generous with your time and it will be a win-win: they’ll get help with work they need done and you’ll use your professional skills to impress more people who will be willing to help you in return.
Follow up. How many times have you met potential contacts who may help you, but you avoided requesting a meeting because it was awkward to ask? Every time you let a new networking contact vanish into the ether, you lose opportunities you’ll never know about.
How can you avoid this? Have in-depth conversations when you meet new people. For example, ask about their summer vacation or holiday plans, find out about their hobbies and talk about their favorite sports teams. Then, you’ll have good reasons to keep in touch by sending an article that may interest them or congratulating them on their team’s big win. When you create reasons to keep in touch, it’s less awkward to ask for an in-person meeting.
Get referred. All of this networking has a great potential payoff. CareerXroads, a consulting practice, conducts annual studies about how organizations source and hire employees. Their most recent study showed that nearly half of all companies make at least 1 hire for every 5 referrals they get. If you’re not putting yourself in positions to be referred, you could miss out on this key job search strategy.
photo by DavidSpinks