Knowing how to network is very important to your job search. As daunting as it can seem, networking can actually be both rewarding and enjoyable. Networking allows you to be social and professional at the same time.
If you’re wondering how to network, it may surprise you to know that you’re probably already doing it. Whenever someone asks you what you do for a living, you’re networking. In that conversation you provide information about yourself and sometimes learn something from the person you’re talking to. Also, you’re leaving a memorable impression in that person’s mind. It could be that, down the road, they hear about something where you might be a fit and mention your name.
How To Network – Getting Started
There are several activities you can get involved in to get started. Consider lunches with colleagues, joining LinkedIn, after-hours socials with past co-workers, Meetups, conferences and other related activities. A more advanced, but targeted, technique is to schedule a meeting with someone in your industry.
However, before jumping in you should plan ahead. When thinking about how to network, you should also be thinking about how to have the right conversations.
How To Network – An Effective Exchange
You want a networking interaction to be an informal exchange of information. Don’t aggressively try to sell yourself since that will likely put off whomever you’re talking to. Instead, ask questions and look for opportunities to learn. At the same time, listen for clues where you can chime in about your similar work experiences and the challenges you’ve faced. Talk about how you solved a problem. If the person you’re talking to brings up a problem they’re facing, consider offering suggestions about how you’ve solved that problem in the past.
The key is to have a good dialog. As the conversation works to a close, it’s OK to mention that you are in the process of a job search and thank the person for sharing their experiences with you. Ask them if they would be willing to give you their email address and if it would be OK to bounce questions off them, should something come up. Let them know that you respect their time and promise not to be a nuisance. Have a business card ready if they ask you for your email address.
Send them an email a week later and thank them again. You could also ask if they’ve heard of any job activity in the industry. They may mention something where they work. They may not. And that’s OK because your goal is to build your professional network, not to ask for a job. Consider providing them information about something interesting you heard about in your industry. Always be ready to give more information than you take.
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Learning how to network taskes time and practice, but the suggestions above should get you of to a good start. What suggestions do you have?