The Rules of Networking
1. Know why you are contacting a person (Ask Questions)
Once you’ve compiled a list of people you would like to contact, decide what you hope to gain from reaching out to them. Here are some ideas of information you can acquire before contacting the people on your list:
- If your contact is a potential employer, you should learn about his or her company, and find out if there are any openings there that you could apply for.
- With friends and acquaintances, it’s a good idea to prepare a networking profile ahead of time that will help you communicate your skills and goals.
- With contacts who work in your industry, you might ask about how to be a competitive applicant and what companies you should look into.
- If the person is in a position similar to the one you would like, you might ask for personal coaching or tips on how to advance your résumé.
- If he or she works for a company you are interested in, you may ask about the employer’s needs and challenges, how to best apply to open positions, and how to adapt to the company culture.
- With everyone you contact, it’s always a good idea to ask if they know of any job openings you might be interested in.
Listen to what people’s needs are and try to create a connection with them, even if it doesn’t benefit you. They’ll remember you the next time around and maybe keep you in mind the next time an opportunity arises — that’s how you apply the power of networking.
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2. Make a powerful impression (Give and Take)
As you contact the individuals on your networking list, it is essential to think through what you are going to say beforehand. What do you want them to come away from the conversation knowing about you? The best way to achieve your goal is to cater your “Me in 30 Seconds” statement and power statements to match your objectives with this networking contact. As you communicate your skills and goals clearly, your contacts will be better able to connect you with key referrals.
3. Keep a precise list of follow-up activities
As you network, you will gain a lot of information and form a lot of new relationships. To achieve the best results, these preliminary efforts will require a lot of additional follow-up activities, such as making phone calls, sending résumés, and writing thank-you notes. Be sure to perform these activities well and with care so that you don’t let any opportunities fall through. Use a form, spreadsheet, email folder, or calendar system to keep track of the calls and contacts you’ve made. You’ll want to remember:
- Who you contacted
- How you know them/who referred you
- When your call or interaction took place
- What you discussed
- What actions you need to take
- When you will complete those actions
Being effective and efficient will give you more energy to dedicate to your job search, and your contacts will appreciate it as you respond and communicate in a suitable manner.
4. Follow through
When you’re networking or on a job search, the one thing that separates the good from the great is a follow through. Send personalized “Nice to meet you” cards to every person you meet at a networking event, or with whom you had any kind of conversation. Next, create an Excel spreadsheet charting all of your professional contacts, their title, and company, where and when you met, and what you discussed. Update this spreadsheet after every future interaction or new contact. The objective of networking is to grow long-term, stable relationships, and follow through is the first and most vital step.
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