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Networking: the dreaded “schmooze”

As soon as I mention networking in my job coaching sessions, my clients usually push back:

“I’ll only need a few applications to get a job, I don’t need to network.”

“I’ve already tried that, it didn’t get me anywhere (although, digging deeper, we discover they never really tried).”

“I’m embarrassed to let people know I’m looking for a job.”

“I don’t know anyone, I don’t have any contacts, group settings make me panic.”

If you think networking doesn’t matter, ask anyone on the hiring side. A manager is much quicker—and happier—to hire someone who has been referred by someone else. Here’s why:

  • Someone knows something about you, the candidate, beyond your résumé and application
  • You will stay with a company longer and be a better employee if you’ve been referred there by another employee
  • Companies save thousands of dollars by hiring through referrals rather than a traditional search—one of the reasons a company pays a bonus to employees who recommend others

Think of it like dating. You’d rather go out on a date with someone who was referred to you by a friend of a friend instead of cold calling, right?

 

So where can you network?

  • LinkedIn is based on networking, the idea of building your connections so you have some relation to people at your targeted companies or in your chosen field. Sign up and set a goal of adding a few connections every day.
  • Your college alumni association events bring you together with all kinds of professionals who happen to share your undergraduate experience, an instant bond
  • Professional organizations in the fields you want to target
  • Meetup is also a great resource- you can create your own group if you can’t find one
  • Create your own networking group- invite three friends/colleagues, ask them to each invite three more friends/colleagues and meet at a bar, coffee shop or someone’s home. Connections breed connections, and if you believe in the concept of six degrees of separation- someone in that group will know someone who can assist you in your career transition.

 

Approach networking events like a project

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, check your coat, and make sure your bag isn’t too big. You’re going to be standing, moving, and shaking hands.
  • Bring lots of your business cards
  • Set a goal of meeting four to six new people or learning two new things about the field you’re targeting
  • Have your elevator pitch practice perfect
  • Relax! Your goal is just to look for common interests
  • Ask open-ended questions, the kind that can’t be answered with yes, no, or simple facts. To create a dialogue, ask how and why questions.
  • If you see someone standing alone, talk to them—they’ll appreciate it
  • Offer a gracious “close” to each conversation: “I’ve enjoyed talking with you, but I should try to connect with a few more people here”
  • Collect business cards and write something on the back of each to remember that person and your conversation.

 

Follow up!

Within 48 hours of the event, send an e-mail to each person you talked with and mention something that you discussed in your conversation. And continue to stay in touch — connect through LinkedIn, send updates, ask questions. You’ve widened your circle, and those connections truly do pay off.

 


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