Networking has two goals: (1) to get you your next job, and (2) to prepare you for when you need it. Networking is the most effective way to secure a job these days. Gerry Crispin of CareerXroads, recruiter for the largest corporations in America, says if you network yourself enough in a company that someone there delivers your resume to the hiring manager, that delivery increases your chances 14x.
Networking is an art because it takes imagination. At the same time, it is a science because it requires practical and systematic activity, as well as good administrative and follow-up skills. In this article, networking refers to personal interaction – not social networking, which is a chapter on its own and complements personal networking.
Networking is an undeniably critical part of job hunting and it’s easy to make mistakes. As we all know, the first impression is a lasting one. The first time you meet someone, introduce yourself by name, shake hands, and look the other person in the eye. Your elevator spacing is also crucial: make it short, memorable, and fascinating. Have the other person ask more questions – to some degree of interest. Most people deliver too long and far too detailed monologues about their professional past. How much appetite do you think the other person has for it? It is better to talk about your future goal rather than where you have been in the past. The listener may be inclined to help, but there is not much they can do about your past.
Networking is clearly about building a professional relationship. The other person also knows that one hand washes the other. If she gives you introductions and pointers today, you can do the same for her in the future. However, make sure you don’t make the other person feel uncomfortable during the dialogue. Never put the other person in an awkward position by complaining or creating a situation in which you seek pity. Be positive, show energy, and have a smile on your face most of the time. A smile generally means the same thing: it says without words that you enjoy the other person’s company, and it’s very welcoming.
It is a proven practice to listen more than speak. If you think the relationship is positive, ask for the person’s business card. The person is likely to ask for yours one at a time. If you have the person’s contact information, send them a quick email later the next day or the next. When you both feel mutually beneficial to each other, this paves the way for further communication and mutual support. It would be a mistake to believe that the other person could offer what you are looking for – namely, a job. But you never know who that person knows or what pointers and possible recommendations you might get, and of course that is ultimately what you are looking for.
Practice networking. It may not feel natural at first, but like other skills, the more you do it, the better it gets. In fact, after a while, you can even have fun just meeting new people.