Of the many ways to look for a job, networking is one of the most effective. Networking is all about building relationships with people. You create a group of people that you interact with to grow your relationships, help each other and share and exchange information. A network is especially helpful to growing your career. Having connections to people is the key to having access to job and career opportunities.
85% of all jobs available are not formally posted or advertised. Seven out of ten jobs are learned about through networking. Why? Part of the reason is employers would rather not hire someone who is a complete stranger. Even if the person doing the hiring doesn’t know you directly, if there is a connection between you and someone the employer does know, you are no longer a stranger to that person. What does this mean for you? In addition to checking job ads and online postings, spend time talking to people and building your network.
Here are six tips to help you network:
- Build Relationships
- Be Prepared With What You Will Say About Yourself
- Be Prepared to Ask Questions and Listen
- Build Your Network
- How to Begin
- Follow Up
Through networking you can get information, resources and support from people. However, when you are networking and building relationships, it is not a one way street. You are both getting and giving. Networking is not about trying to meet as many people as you can so that you get what you need. Relationships that help grow your network are built by showing concern for, and interest in, other people. It’s about finding out what you can do for other people, just as much as what they can do for you.
Some people feel like they are not able to offer anything to other people. In reality, when you are talking with and building relationships with others, you can and should listen, give encouragement, share information and share your expertise with people, just as they can do these things for you.
Be prepared with what you will say about yourself
Before you begin networking, spend some time thinking about what you will say to the people you are networking with. Be prepared to share who you are, what you want and what you’ve done. These will most likely be the things you will share with just about all of the people you talk with. Spend some time thinking about and coming up with your answers ahead of time. And then practice. The more you practice what you will say, the more confident you will be and the more natural it will sound.
- Who you are: Come up with a short, clear, and interesting introduction about yourself.
- What you want: Be able to explain what you are looking for in a job and how others can help you.
- What you’ve done: Be prepared with short stories or examples of what you have accomplished so people can understand your talents and skills.
Be Prepared to Ask Questions and Listen
When you are asking questions to gather information, ask mostly open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are questions that must be answered with more than a simple yes or no. This type of question is great for gathering information, learning about opportunities, and building trust. Open-ended questions start out with words like who, what, when, where, why, and how. This helps bring out more information from people.
After you ask a question, be sure you listen to the answer! More than 75% of your networking will be listening for information and answers. Active listening is a skill you should practice to help with your networking. When you are actively listening to a person, it means you are fully concentrating on and interested in what they are saying. When you are actively listening, try not to take sides or form opinions about what the person is saying. Just listen and gather as much information as you can.
Build Your Network
Now that you are prepared to network, what’s next? Start thinking about who you know. Every person that you know, knows somebody else, who knows somebody else. This is how you build your network. The people you know may not be able to offer you a job, but they can connect you to others, share information and share their experience. They can also connect you to their networks, so that your network can continue to grow.
Every place you go where there are people is an opportunity to network. The average person interacts with about 20-25 people per day. Now you know the importance of networking and you are prepared to network. Pay attention to the opportunities you have to network with people you are already coming into contact with every day.
How to Begin
It’s not as hard as you might think to begin talking to people. Ask people questions and get them talking about themselves. It’s easy for people to share stories about themselves, what they do and what and who they know. They also like to give advice and be helpful. And don’t forget to thank them! People like to feel appreciated. Remember, when you talk to people:
- Ask open-ended questions
- Be specific in what you are asking
- Listen to the person – oftentimes you gain more by listening than by speaking
- Make it about them; people like to talk about themselves
- Pay attention to the other person’s interests/needs
- Offer suggestions or connections
- Ask them to share their professional experience; people like to share and give advice
- Be considerate of the other person’s time
Every day when you are interacting with people, share your introduction and find something in common to begin a conversation. Every person may have some information you need or know someone who does. Or, they may know a person who knows a person who does. Remember the power of the network? Think about using every opportunity to network and ask for information.
After your conversation, be sure to thank the other person. If you had a formal networking conversation with someone, do a more formal thank you. Send a quick email or note saying how much you enjoyed meeting them and thank him or her for taking the time to talk with you.
Be sure to take notes right away after your conversation. Write down the person’s name and any other contact information that you have including, phone number, email address or other information. Write down any important information you learned from the conversation. Also write down the names of any people they referred you to. This helps you keep track of who referred you to who. When you talk to that person, you can include the name of the person who referred you in your introduction. Always be sure to follow through quickly on any referrals that are given to you. Good notes will also help as you write a thank you note.
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