Networking is the number one job search activity that will shorten your career transition and guarantee your advancement. Use these four tips for maximum impact at your next in-person networking event.
- Attire – Make sure the clothes you’re wearing are appropriate for the event. There’s no use going to a formal affair in jeans and a t-shirt, or a summer patio event in a tuxedo. Be sensitive to your audience and the people who will be there. First impressions count!
- Approach people deliberately – Choose who you want to network with. Are they interesting, do they have a unique business or product, or can you help them with something they’re struggling with, by sharing your expertise? Reach out with a good handshake – firm but not oppressive – look them in the eye, and smile.
- Avid listening – Open up the conversation by inviting them to tell their story. Then ask further probing questions that show you are interested in their business or product. Here begins the giving. My networking philosophy has always been to give before you take, and for career success I believe that should be everybody’s philosophy.Focus on building a productive rapport first. Then, and only then, if the conversation leads that way, give the other person an opportunity to ask you some questions and start eloquently answering them.
- Advance the relationship – If you’re sensing this could be a potentially mutually beneficial relationship, look for an appropriate time to exchange business cards – never thrust your business card discriminately in people’s faces as soon as you meet them.
Arrange a way to connect further, either with an in person meeting, a telephone call or video chat, or more casually via social media.
The critical piece here is that you are proactive with your follow up. The mere act of following through creates a very good impression on the other end, and sets you apart from the multitude of networkers who make vague plans but never see them through.
If you don’t see a good match, simply wind up the conversation and thank them for their time. Then confidently and articulately move on to another conversation.
The bulk of any successful job search revolves around cultivating a network of key influencers in your industry. While you’ll generate some leads from social media and other platforms, in-person networking should be a major part of your job search strategy. Use these four tips to guide your efforts.
P.S. Remember that even once you’ve accepted your new job offer, you must never stop networking. You may not network to the same degree, but you still need to build and maintain your relationships, because that’s where your next opportunity will come from.