It would be nice to just flip a switch and land your dream job. In reality, though, a job search is an ongoing process that networking is a crucial part of. No one denies that, but few of us are flinging our caps in the air about it.
Here are some networking tips that will make the search more enjoyable and more
likely to pay off:
Start with the people in your life who care about you and know what you’re capable of.
This would seem obvious, but we tend to forget real-life relationships in this increasingly digital age. Don't spend all your time on LinkedIn.
There’s no shame in letting your acquaintances, friends and loved ones know that you’re in a job hunt. Will you let them help?
Call up people that you’ve worked with in the past. Contact local business owners that you interact with. Get together with that former college roommate or cousin you haven’t seen in a while.
If they think of someone who might help you, ask if they’d be willing to introduce you or forward your resume. Be sure to thank people who arrange meetings for you.
Remember, too, that maintaining long-term relationships is good for you. Get together with that cousin more often after you’re employed.
Don’t make it all about you.
When you're introduced and start networking with people, do not make the meetings all about you and your needs. That can wait.
Focus first on trying to establish meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships. Be sincerely curious about your leads. Ask questions about their careers, families and interests. Actively listen and engage on a personal level. Try to find out if you have any mutual friends. Offer to be of help if it’s ever needed.
Don’t turn down a meeting just because the contact isn’t in a position to help you.
Let’s say that you're in restaurant management. You hope to find a regional supervisor’s position in a growing chain.
Your dad’s coworker has only a vague idea of what you do. He introduces you to his fishing buddy because the fishing buddy owns a successful restaurant supply company. You wonder why your dad’s coworker is wasting everyone’s time.
He isn’t. Every day, the fishing buddy talks to people who make big decisions about their restaurants. He’s done business with most of them for years. It’s a small world, and the fishing buddy is just one more valuable contact who can put your name out there.
Another possible outcome is that the fishing buddy has a position to fill in his own company. He’s highly impressed with you and asks if you’d consider changing careers. You end up happier on the supply end of things than you were in operations.
If nothing comes of the meeting except a new friendship, it was still productive. Be sure to send an email expressing thanks.
Each week, review the meetings you had and schedule follow-ups on your calendar. Find creative ways to stay connected. What did you and your contact have in common? If you talked about music, share a link about an upcoming concert. Set up a round of golf. Send an industry-related book that you liked.
There’s more to networking than meeting once and shaking hands when you leave.
Set networking goals.
We all get lazy when we don’t hold ourselves accountable.
Come up with fixed numbers for how many resumes you’ll send and contacts you’ll pursue each week. Make firm plans to reach out to friends, family members and local businesses. Set aside one day a week to read and respond personally to industry blogs.
Finally, stay positive. Networking isn't always fun, but it is good for you, and, it pays off eventually.