People talk about the importance of networking when it comes to finding a job, and for good reason. It’s estimated that as many as 70% of job seekers find their position through contacts versus just 15% who do so via job boards. Networking isn’t a quick fix, however. In order for it to add value to your job search, you need to have a strong networking strategy behind you and a clear idea of what you want to achieve.
Here are some useful steps to guide you:
1. Fill your diary
The first (and undoubtedly most important) step is to get in front of the right people. So you’ve got to start researching events to attend: join networking groups on LinkedIn and take note of events being held. Attend alumni meet-ups, breakfast meetings and talks and lectures in your area of interest. Ideally, you should be aiming to attend at least two or three gatherings each month. Booking them in should help you get your head around the next three steps.
2. Come prepared
You need to make sure you’re making the most of these opportunities, which means having the right tools – both physical and mental – to draw on. Hone your ‘elevator pitch’ – a 30-second spiel that tells your ‘story’ and your career aspirations. Make sure to have a stack of business cards at the ready and check that your LinkedIn and other professional profiles are up to date.
3. Be selfless
Networking is a two-way process, and people can sense those whose motivations are purely of the self-serving variety. Rather than just asking yourself what you can get out of your interactions with others, approach each encounter prepared to ask questions about the other person, and be ready to extend your help to them. Being generous with your time and attention will make it far easier to build rapport and to call in a favor when the time comes.
4. Follow up
Have a standard formula for following up with new connections so that it becomes instinctive. If you have the contact details of the person you’ve met, send them a short email re-emphasizing the key points of your conversations and outlining your job search objectives. Alternatively, you can add them as a contact on LinkedIn and Twitter, accompanying the invite with a quick message.
While there is no precise science to networking (there is usually a fair amount of luck involved after all), that’s not to say you won’t reap what you sow. With some preparation and organization up front, an enthusiastic attitude and the right amount of dedication, generosity and self-awareness you’ll find that, more often than not, the process pays dividends.
Thomas Wharton is President of LIFOCUS CAREER SERVICES an Executive Coaching and Career Coaching firm in Rhode Island, providing Career & Transition Coaching, Outplacement, Executive Coaching, and Assessments. Tom can be reached at 401.884.7959 • firstname.lastname@example.org. • www.lifocus.com •@careercoachTW