May 20, 2018

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Build Your Networking Skills

Networking is a skill as well as an art. Practice, refining and critiquing continually helps make it perfect. Networking is essential to your success, and you should devote time to it because you're most likely to find your next position through personal contact than any other source.

To get started, you should do some research about networking, and how to do it. Go to the library and look up what you can about networking. Another helpful learning experience is to listen to others network. This helps you get the 'in' that other networkers have.

Think about what you are looking for from your network. Are you looking for networking ideas? Referrals? Combining this with information you've gathered about the industry you're looking to get into should help you stay on track. Many people have informational interviews with contacts to find out about specific job roles, specific industry information, etc as a way to get information and referrals.

The interview is an informal friendly question/answer session that can be conducted in person or via letter. While it is friendly, you still need to prepare for the meeting. Oftentimes the person you're meeting with doesn't know you. Give them some background about yourself, exchange pleasantries, and ask appropriate questions for the level of the person you're meeting with. For example, you don't want to ask a VP of Marketing the basics about marketing.

Don't be upset if you leave the interview without any referrals. The manager was nice enough to meet with you and give you valuable information. Be grateful for the information you received and be sure to send a thank-you note to them and keep in touch with them. They may want to make sure of your sincere interest before giving out names.

Attend as many after work events as you can. This will get you out there meeting people. You should be open to new ideas and opportunities to meet people.

Practice your networking skills on someone else. Use a coworker, spouse, sibling, or friend. They may give you pointers you hadn't thought of.

When you meet new people, be articulate, enthusiastic, honest and open. Use language you're comfortable with, but make sure it is powerful. Always remember to listen to the other side of the conversation as well.

When you get referrals from your network contact, always follow up with the referral. Your contact may have told them to expect your call. Once you've followed through with the referral, don't forget to send your contact a thank you note letting them know how things went.

Lastly, have fun while networking. Never forget that this is not only a way to get a new job, it's also a way to make new friends. As you're getting to know others in your industry, let them get to know you as well.

Remember to also look for contacts where others may have overlooked. Many opportunities exist within the company you're working at now. Going to company functions provides you with a bond with senior management and is the perfect opportunity to meet senior managers, and their spouses, that may be useful as a contact in the future.

Networking is a life-long process of establishing and keeping in contact with people. These people should be considered your friends, and shouldn't be contacted cold and put on the spot to help you find a new job. Add them to your holiday card list, remember birthdays, and contact them for no reason other than to find out how they are doing.

As you become more of an insider, your networking contacts will refer people to you for ideas, tips, and referrals. Networking is a powerful life-long tool when used properly where you get advice from your network, and give something back by giving advice to others.

As you become more successful in your career, remember to keep your network alive. Keep in contact with everyone. You're never to successful to network and as managers were with you, be happy to share the knowledge you've acquired over the years to someone new in the market.

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