How To Network Effectively
Updated: Mar 20
In this last post of a three week series on networking, we will be discussing how to network effectively.
Be strategic about who you approach and what you want
With a specific career aim in mind you need to review all of your contacts and list the contacts you think may be helpful in your job search. Secondly, you need to further refine your list to prioritize approaching your strongest, most relevant contacts first. Only approach your target contact when you have done your homework. You need to be able to openly, honestly and respectfully articulate exactly what you want from your contact. Do not ask questions about information you should already know or have already researched.
So what are your goals? For example, are you:
· Wanting a general overview of the opportunities available within an industry?
· Wanting information about a specific job role/opportunity?
· Looking for advice about an application process?
· Looking for relevant work experience that will enhance your CV?
Your answers to the above will indicate the sort of information you require and you will be able to identify specific people or generic job titles you need to complete further research on.
Be a good listener
When you are trying to extend your network and influence the people you meet, remember how to be a good listener. To start with listen more than you talk. Listening also saves you the delicate task of wondering what to say next. Asking relevant questions shows that you have an interest and enthusiasm for what they are saying. When you pay attention to the other person and actively listen to what they have to say, you come across as being genuine and approachable. By listening first, you then know the appropriate way to talk about yourself.
How to introduce yourself
When first meeting a potential contact, your nonverbal body language is a crucial part of your introduction. To make a positive nonverbal impression you can indicate your desire to meet the person by standing up straight, smiling, making eye contact and reaching out to shake their hand. These small gestures demonstrate your openness and interest in making a connection with them.
Prepare a brief statement about who you are. The statement should be less than two minutes in duration, include your first and last name, your company or target industry and key details about yourself. This could include: What you do; Who you do it for; Why you do it; Why it matters etc. Try to conclude with a strong ending that leaves the person wanting to know more about you. If you are not confident in speaking publicly and/or remembering the content and sequence of your statement, then you should rehearse saying your statement out loud, maybe in front of a friend and time its duration.
How To Approach A Networking Opportunity
How you approach a networking opportunity can determine how successful the encounter is likely to be. In the first instance you are wanting to establish a networking contact with a person, not a job. Potentially, the right person, could lead to the right job. As such, you should adopt this mind set for all networking opportunities and engage with potential contacts as people, not merely as possible job leads. Similarly, don’t start in with a hard sell pitch whereby the person may feel accosted by you. You don’t want to end up as the person everyone avoids! Instead, as noted in Post Two, initially let the potential contact talk about what matters to them. Asking pertinent questions could begin a dialogue whereby you identify common ground. Which in turn, may lead to an interesting conversation that creates a lasting impression with the person. See if you can help them in any way and add value to their work. All in all, this could mark the beginning of a great relationship.
Be open to your contact’s advice, even if it doesn't fit your requirements exactly. Their knowledge and contact in the given field could be crucial in finding your next job opportunity. However, if you decide after listening to them this company or career area for example is not right for you, you must feed this back to them and say that after careful thought, you have now decided you may be interested in other career areas. For example you may say something like “Thank you this has been really helpful. However, I am now thinking that this area may not be right for me. Do you have any contacts in this area who could possibly advise more about this career area?” Also, you could send them a note thanking them for their time. They are likely to appreciate this and be more likely to help you in the future.
Finally, following up is key to maintaining your network relationships. Follow up immediately on all of the leads you are given and report back to your contacts that you have done so. Again, if someone has done you a favour, circle back and let them know the outcome.
In summary, the phrase “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know” is so true in business. If you really want a successful career, then you need to have a great source of relevant connections in your network that you can call on when you need them. People always remember how you make them feel so make them feel good when they think about you. By doing this, you sow the seeds for reciprocal assistance when you need help to achieve your goals.
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