May 22, 2018

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No Fear Networking

Ever heard the phrase "it's not what you know, it's who you know?" You may be surprised just how true it is. We have met many candidates who were tremendously skilled, but weren't getting good job offers. Their problem was simple - they didn't know the right people, and they didn't know how to meet them.

Social Networking theorists have said you're probably connected to anyone in the world by a mere six people. If you know how to move along that line of connections, you can probably meet whoever you want - including that one who can propel your career into high gear. But if networking hasn't been your strong suit, or if you're unsure how to get started, here are a few tips from some of our best career counselors.

Join a Professional Organization
There are organizations and social groups for nearly ever interest, skill, industry from project managers to programmers or sales people to scientists. If you have a unique skill or a niche industry, the groups may be a little harder to find but they're likely to have more opportunities. If you have trouble finding an organization or club, try the Internet! Online communities have sprung up all over for even the smallest niches. You may also find like-minded people at places like Meet-Up whose members meet in a nearby public place to talk and share experiences. Regardless of where you find your group, however, getting involved and meeting people will help you find that person who's looking for someone like you in their company.

Never Be Afraid to Ask
In general, people like to help others. Not only does it feel good to help someone out, it's also a bit of an ego boost. Never be afraid to ask for help, advice, or resources. It helped Jan, an engineering recruiter, find exactly the group of people she needed: "I was having a simple conversation at a Military Job Fair. After asking for any advice or opportunities, I got an invitation to a seminar where engineers from around the country came for certification. From there, I was admitted to a 'think tank' at Northrup Grumman and have built good relationships with a very skilled network of engineers."

Be Able to Explain Your Background in Under a Minute
It's far too easy to go off on lots of little rabbit trails when you introduce yourself or start to answer the question, "So what do you do?" If you're walking around at a meet-and-green luncheon, no one is really interested in the full story of what you learned from each job you've had since college, but you have to give more than four word answers. Find a place in the middle and give them enough to be intrigued and ask for more information.

For example, you could say, "Oh, I design energy-efficient power systems that cut down on wasted electricity." If the person you're talking to works in education, they may say, "Oh, that's interesting," and you both move on. But if the person you're talking to works for a major appliance manufacturer who needs help designing energy-efficient toasters, you may have just met your next boss.

Have Personal Business Cards
A business card is a great way to stay in front of someone a day or two after you met them. A week, month, or six months after you've explained why you're the best at what you do, your business card will spark your new contact's memory and they'll give you a call when they need you. Or they'll be able to pass it along to one of their colleagues who needs you - somebody you wouldn't normally be able to find.

For job hunting and personal networking, use business cards that are just about you - with your name and contact information. If you're currently working, don't use your company's cards, since you're not promoting your company. You can print personal cards on your home printer using tear-apart templates from an office-supply store, although sometimes these look pretty sloppy. You can also order professionally printed cards at cheap prices on the Internet through vendors like VistaPrint.

Practice Learning Names
Being able to remember a person's name is simply impressive. Better yet - when you can remember something about your last conversation - even something personal - it really says you are friendly, personable, likable, and best of all, trustworthy. Come up with a system for remembering the names of people you meet, plus one or two personal things about them or something about their latest project at work. If you use a contact manager like Microsoft Outlook, you can put these extra items right into their contact record. But if nothing else, you should be able to walk into a networking event and recognize the people you've already spoken with. Need a little help, try Never Forget a Name or Face , by Dominic O'Brien (it's under $5). Link to book: [ ]

Never Stop Networking
But most of all, never stop networking. Networking doesn't end as soon as you leave an event or business dinner. Don't be afraid to talk to people and strike up conversations. You never know who knows who. Always be ready to tell your story (in under a minute!) and have a few personal business cards with you. You could meet somebody on the train, in the airport, at the mall, or wherever that knows your next boss.

Jeof Oyster

Editor Headway Corporate Resources Job Seekers Portal

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