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Networking as a job seeker is about making genuine contacts and building long term relationships with other people who can either help you find a job directly or connect you with others who can.
There are two types of networking: Informal - this can be done almost anytime you talk to someone, casually mentioning that you are looking for a job can be a great conversation starter - and Formal - this involves going to business specific social events, meetings, or associations. Often there are others there who are also networking. If you think you will have trouble “stepping out there” during face-to-face conversations, you can always start your formal networking online via job forums and career networking websites as well as social media platforms. The key to successful networking is to make sure that you treat all your networking contacts with genuine appreciation and professional respect.
In person, face-to-face networking can be hard to begin with. Start slow, schedule at least two or three events a month, and find groups that you want to join and build relationships through the monthly meetings. Most hiring managers will look at the resume of someone who has been referred long before one that comes in among the big blob of online applicants. That is why developing relationships is so important.
Networking is a two-way street. It’s important that you make yourself available as a potential resource for other network members when they are looking for a job or they ask you for help. Give help at least four times as much as you get help.
How do you start a conversation? How do you get the information about yourself across to someone before their eyes glaze over and they start nodding uncomfortably? Start by saying “Hello, my name is…………. How are you today?” You’ll always get an answer. Another good question is “What brings you here today?” If they say, “networking because I am looking for a job,” Bingo! A fellow sufferer, and you can go from there! People you meet should remember you and what you do, the best way to achieve this in a short amount of time is to have an “elevator speech” ready.
An “elevator speech” is a 30 second commercial selling yourself. Think about introducing yourself to someone you see in the elevator - how much time do you have to talk before the door opens? You should prepare one as soon as you decide to go job-hunting. Short and sweet, it very briefly describes who you are, what you do, and if you are introducing yourself to a potential employer, why you are the perfect candidate. Practice it in front of someone who will give you genuine feedback, then practice until it sounds natural!
Lou Adler, CEO of the Adler Group, says that 85% of critical jobs are filled via networking of some sort. Networking starts building relationships and being different. Considering that most jobs come through personal connections, building your network should be a high priority on and off the job search.
Networking takes time and relationships won’t develop overnight, so be patient. By making a point of consistently meeting new people, you will learn from others about your industry, profession, and the companies you’re interested in.