You may think you’re networking, but are you really?
You’re sure that you’ve done everything right and built a solid foundation of friends, contacts and references. But are you really as connected as you could be? Follow these valuable networking tips to see if you may have missed an important step, as you try to network your way into a bright future.
1. Take a second look at your contact list
Go over the contacts on your phone and in your email, the people you connect with via social media and your LinkedIn connections. Think of people you see every day; they may not work in your industry of choice, but they may know those who do. We tend to get in touch with the usual suspects—former employers, work colleagues, college professors—and, as a result, we forget that acquaintance whose cousin works for an ad agency or the barista who freelances for a tech magazine. You know far more people than you think you know.
2. Keep in touch with people in your network
Leave the job-hunting agenda behind and reach out to your contacts to ask how they’re doing. Tell them briefly about what’s new with you: a course you’re taking, volunteer work you’re doing or a mutual friend you ran into. Keep it social and keep it light. The point of reaching out in this way is to get a dialogue going and nurture relationships with people who may be able to help you in your job search, now or down the line.
3. Ask for advice, not a job
A great way to network is to ask your job contacts for advice. How did they get started? Did they send their resume to countless companies? Did they know that one person who was able to give them an “in”? Ask pertinent questions, and you’re guaranteed to learn something new that you can use for yourself in your own search for that perfect job.
4. Opportunity knocks: are you prepared?
If a networking opportunity fell in your lap, while out with friends or hanging out at the dog park, would you know how to market yourself on the spot? Do you know what to tell people about yourself that will make a new acquaintance want to keep in touch? Do you have a business card at the ready? Do you know how to add contacts to your phone? Don’t be caught stumbling: always be prepared for opportunity to knock!
5. Follow networking etiquette
It’s the simplest rule of all: treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Never use names without the person’s permission. If a contact calls you, call them back. If someone gives you a lead on a job, follow through on that lead. Always take time to thank those who reach out to you. Stay in touch with your contacts, but don’t pester them with endless phone calls and texts. Always remember: if something would annoy you, it will likely annoy someone else.
6. If you still need more contacts, get more contacts!
Ask your existing contacts if they know of any good clubs or organizations that you could join. Find online forums that focus on the industry you want to break into and get involved in the conversations. Get involved in community events and volunteer when you can. You can’t magically create a network of contacts out of thin air, but you can expand the network you have, by getting out there and meeting new people.