No other job search technique can give you such extensive rewards, so learning to be a successful networker is critical. What does it take? Techniques, sure, but more importantly the right attitude.
Think of yourself as someone who can be helpful rather than someone looking for a favor and your entire networking experience will have a focus and direction that will serve you well beyond finding your next job.
What do I mean by being helpful? Think of yourself as someone who can provide information to the people you meet. After all, you’ll be talking with lots of people in an industry and, by listening attentively, you’ll pick up information that you can share.
Let’s say you’re looking for a job as a research assistant in a financial services company. As you read the business news, be on the alert for new information about upcoming technology trends or competitive threats from banks offering financial planning services.
Then when you go on information interviews or attend association meetings you can talk about these topics with the people you meet — asking them questions about how it will affect their companies and offering to send them copies of the articles. You’ll make a much stronger impression than if you just introduce yourself plus you’ll have a second chance to get your name in front of them because you will be sending them the article. You’ll differentiate yourself from other job seekers who don’t go to the trouble of making a second contact.
Of course, before you meet with someone, you’ll do your homework about the company and industry in which you’re interested. That research means more than just finding out what’s on the Web site, though.
If possible, learn what you can about the backgrounds of the people you’ll be meeting. Get the attendance list from the association before the meeting and decide who you want to meet — then search out information about them and the association. Have they held office? Are they new members? Are there several people from their company attending the event?
A hint for shy people: call the membership director of the association and ask for help. Say you’ll be visiting the meeting and would like to be introduced to two or three people. Explain that you’re looking for information to help with your job search. Then when you get to the meeting, introduce yourself to the membership director (who will probably be sitting at the check-in table) and thank him/her for his/her help getting you started with introductions. Remember that you’re there to be helpful — to listen and share information, not ask for a job.
It’s always easier to meet people by asking questions that let them talk about themselves and their jobs. Think of yourself as the host of the event rather than a guest and immediately you put yourself into a new mindset — one of helping rather than being needy.
After a few minutes talking with someone, it’s time to move on. Ask for a business card and note on the back anything you plan to do as follow up — call, send an article, etc. Don’t offer your card unless asked, but usually when you ask, people politely ask back. Suggest that the other person must want to talk with others, shake hands and walk away. Don’t overstay your welcome.
Look for someone who’s alone and start a new conversation. Thinking like a host, you don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable or awkward, so approaching someone who’s standing alone will be easier.
Once you get home, make a list of the articles or other information you promised to send and be sure you do it the next day. Also, send a thank you note to the membership director, if that makes sense, and anyone else who gave you a lead or suggested you contact someone else. Make follow up calls a day or two later to set up appointments or get further information. You’re on your way to success.
Networking is a skill you can, and should, use throughout your career, not just when looking for a job. Network when you need new clients, when you need information, when you need help with a project and of course when you need another new job.
Since 1994, Jan has been a career advisor, helping individuals and groups with career decisions and job search techniques. Her practical approach helps client find the jobs they want and then offers techniques to find them. She also teaches courses on entrepreneurship, small business marketing, career decision-making and networking, among others. Her practice is nationwide. You can contact Jan at: Cannon Career Development, Inc. via their toll free number: 888 550 4544. Please visit www.cannoncareercenter.com.