The internet offers a ton of suggestions on networking for job seekers. You can attend career fairs, put in a request for an information interview, drop in on classes, join clubs, meetups, student organizations or connect with professionals by phone, email, LinkedIn, social media platforms, etc (just see our list of career-related events andcourses). There are plenty of avenues you can take to build on your professional relationships to ultimately achieve career goals. Afterall, networking is the most effective way to job hunt.
Having said this, in order to successfully network, we urge job seekers (as backward as it seems), to AVOID stressing your end goal. Keep reading and we’ll answer the why behind this logic, and what to do alternatively.
“Networking at it’s root is people connecting with people” -- Yusuf Wilson (The Art of Networking)
Whether you’re connecting with friends, family, classmates, professionals, supervisors, coworkers, or people outside of your social circle, many of us, as people, prefer to engage in an organic conversation as opposed to listening to a sales pitch. Consequently, many of us feel uncomfortable or not-so enthused to promote ourselves in order to expand our network.
Yes, it’s important for you to stand out as a potential candidate, but you don’t want to stand out for having had the most awkward exchange. The best way to successfully network is to make a genuine connection with the people around you.
Here are 3 key things to have in mind when networking with others.
Do it Inadvertently
Not having to drill the end goal into every conversation makes you feel less inclined to exclusively speak with people in your field-of-interest. When you’re inadvertently networking, you expand your network by connecting with people who are similar and different from yourself. You never know who can have an impact on your career path.
It should be an everyday practice. Look for opportunities to communicate with others and take up on any opportunity that presents itself to develop a new connection. Do it in a way that’s most natural to you by speaking about your passions, or presenting yourself as the person you want to be. If your passion shines through, people will be able to detect that and will have inherent an interest in who you are.
Make it a Fair Exchange
Networking is not a one-way street. Don’t forget to express interest in others. When networking with others be sure to think about how they can benefit from the information you have to share and go from there. Similar as you would with a job interview, without listing your assets and qualifications, you want them to understand that you will be of value to a specific field, employee, company or organization because of your strong desire to contribute, which in turn, would be useful to them.
Asking questions about the other party, helps you to gain insight in what you want to do and demonstrates your genuine interest in their career journey. They are more likely to open up to you knowing they are not just a means for you to get ahead.
Once you’ve established a connection, keep in touch. Recall your last conversation with them and be specific when following up. If they told you about a project in the works, ask them about its progress. You can send them articles relevant to subject matters discussed in the past, schedule some face-to-face over coffee… these things will go a long way.
Don’t just “like” a post, or hit the congrats button and call it a day. Take the time and effort to build a strong connection by following-up continually.
With this in mind, you’re sure to add value to your network.