Here are five ways to make networking work for you:
1. Mix It Up
Don’t, I repeat, don’t go to the same places with the same people over and over again. It is very easy to seek a pattern or habit when you are in a new and potentially uncomfortable place. Few people like going into a room of strangers and walking up to someone and telling him you are out of work. It sucks enough to know it – you don’t like having to say it. But… get over the fear! Expand your list of contacts. Grow your circle. Increase your influence.
2. Know Your Message
You are the President, CEO, and Sales Manager for You, Inc. What are you selling? Who are you selling it to?
Let me fill you in on a little secret… the answers are not you are selling your resume (or a verbal version of it) to anyone who’s buying. I promise you the overly general, include everything you’ve ever done, just in case someone might want you to do the job you did 17 years ago approach doesn’t work in a networking context.
Be specific. You should be able to tell anyone who asks, without hesitation, what your strengths are, a few job titles that would be a good fit, and what value you bring to an organization. Also, you should be able to tell anyone who asks 5 – 10 organizations and/or people you would like to meet or get to know better.
3. Do What You Say You’ll Do
Everyone knows actions speak louder than words; when you are networking for a job, this is more important than ever. You aresending micro-messages to your network with each and every commitment you make and keep (or don’t). Tell them how great you are!
Do you have a strategy for helping your network remember what you are looking for? This is your job while you are searching. Don’t assume they will remember exactly which friend is looking for a network administrator job and who is looking for an IT support position. Use tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail to remind your network of your search.
4. Stay Top Of Mind
NOTE: There is a really fine line here you must learn to walk. Don’t be “that guy” and send 14 messages a week to your full list of contacts. It’s important to be aggressive, but not so much people stop reading your messages or taking your calls because they are tired of your constant requests for help. Find a comfortable pace at which you will run the race.
5. Be Real
Networking is work, don’t get me wrong. However, most networking meetings – whether one to one or in a group – are designed for people to connect. So put enough of yourself out there so others can connect to you. Smile. Laugh. Enjoy the opportunity to make some new contacts and potential friends. In sales, there is a saying people do business with those they know, like and trust. Be someone who others will seek to know and like. The trust will follow when you are authentic in your relationships.
ANOTHER NOTE: As with #4, there is a line here. Use discretion when meeting new people and do not tell everyone everything about your personal and private life. Being real and authentic does not equate with telling your deepest darkest secrets. Networking is about finding a point of connection.
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