We are all very well aware of the value of networking. We’ve been told by numerous surveys, job boards, and social media sites that it’s the best way to find a job. In fact, Tom Farley, President of the NYSE, recently told Fortune Magazine that “I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking.” However, the question at hand is not why do we network, but how do we network?
Networking opportunities are everywhere – yes, everywhere! In obvious places, such as work and school, and in more overlooked places, like a restaurant or a grocery store (you never know when you’ve just bumped shoulders with the hiring manager at your dream company). The key is knowing how to make those initial connections and build a relationship with them.
So, where do you start?
Relationships are the direct line to your next career move, so start with the relationships you already have. Whether that is your college professor, a former colleague, or even a friend in the same line of work, you already know someone who can help get you connected to those valuable resources. Reach out to them first and see where they can take you.
For example, say you want to pursue a career in marketing and you have your eye on an entry-level marketing position at a certain company. You know from researching the company on various social media platforms that the Marketing Manager attends many local community events. Your college professor has also mentioned attending such events in the past. Why not ask your professor if you can tag along at the next event and be introduced to some of the attendees (particularly the Marketing Manager)! Not only will your professor likely be thrilled to have a guest to bring to the event, he will also be honored to help with your career development.
As another example, perhaps you worked alongside an individual at a previous job and developed a unique relationship based on similar interests and goals. Though you’ve both moved on to different opportunities, you still keep in touch with each other. Your former colleague now works in Sales and is responsible for reaching out to local businesses, where she has personally met and held conversations with various business owners and hiring managers. Ask if your colleague will put you in contact with one (or several) of her connections in the Marketing field. By having a trusted third party introduce you, there is a greater chance that you will be acknowledged and accepted than if you reached out yourself.
Once you have utilized your current relationships to connect with new resources, it’s time to build those initial contacts into beneficial relationships. Introducing yourself and having a one-time conversation probably won’t lead you to a job offer, so it’s important to continually be in touch and ensure your new connections keep you on their radar.
Know that people are inherently helpful and want others to succeed, but they are also busy and have time constraints. You’ll have to appeal to them and strike their interest in a way that they will want to devote some time to your request. Use what you know about their knowledge and skills to help accomplish your own goals. For instance, you might say, “Being that you are a top performer in your field, I was hoping to pick your brain about what makes you so successful so that I may learn techniques to be successful as well.” By recognizing your contact’s accomplishments and showing interest in learning from them, you’re more likely to receive a response than if you simply asked to meet for coffee to discuss an opportunity.
Another tactic is to involve the person that initially introduced you to your new contact. In this situation, you might say something like, “Our mutual colleague, (name), was just telling me about the success of your last marketing project. I, too, am a marketing professional and I’d love to speak with you about what qualities make your team so successful.” Using the name of the mutual colleague will not only pique the interest of your resource, but she will also be more apt to respond due to her relationship with the mutual contact.
As we know, networking is a sure-fire way to land your ideal job. When you are ready to start connecting, be sure to reach out to the resources you already have. They will be able to assist with putting you in touch with those new contacts of interest. Once you have made the connection and built an ongoing relationship with the new contacts, you can seek assistance with job placement and career advancement and ultimately find your dream job!