There are about a million different resources for how to network, do’s and don’ts, tips and tricks. This isn’t one of those articles. This is one of those articles where I’ve been to what feels like a million networking events and tried out a lot of different things and figured out what actually works for me. Sometimes I mix in my coaching blogs with a bit of personal experience “advice”. I do it because we can learn from others’ experiences. I encourage you to think about these tips but then use them only to inform your own ideas about what might work for you.
So, tried and true for me, here are the networking tips that nobody’s telling you that will get you the information you want (and that take hard work and courage!).
You have to show someone how competent you are, not tell them.
Just going to an event and shaking someone’s hand doesn’t make you recommendation-worthy. Volunteer to help them with a project for their work or pet project or heck, even a social activity like planning a kid’s birthday party. Show how professional, efficient, dedicated, hardworking, and clever you are. I’ve even heard someone who gave a speech at Toastmasters and had two job offers after the speech. You need to make your skills apparent.
Connect with strangers on LinkedIn.
I found people who have similar interests, or similar education, or similar travels, and ask them if they wouldn’t mind grabbing a coffee and sharing their wisdom. A one-on-one meeting and chat is completely different from an introduction at a networking event. The person you’re contacting is more likely to thoroughly review your LinkedIn profile and find out more about what you want and if you could actually be a fit. In other words, they’re more likely to actually look at you and consider you. I’ve done it several times and it’s surprisingly effective. Yes, I slightly over-flatter them in my friendship request but I have a 100% success rate on accepted coffee dates. In fact, I have 2 very good friends now from these coffees and they are still vital connections to those companies in the future if I do want to work there. Network expanded.
Put the word out there.
Sometimes our humbleness gets in the way, sometimes our pride gets in the way. For whatever reason, many of us tell a few close confidants that we are looking for a job and then don’t tell anyone else. I say, shout it from the rooftops! Regularly! You have to stay top-of-mind so when people hear of job openings, you immediately pop into their mind as someone who might be interested / might be worth recommending. The more people helping your job search, the wider the net cast and the more likely you’ll find something that’s a good fit for you.
Don’t be scared to ask for help from a friend’s partner or a friend of a friend.
People love to be helpful to friends and friends of friends. People do not love to be helpful to stranger opportunists they met 5 seconds ago at a happy hour. Maybe you think your network doesn’t have the right connections but have you considered the networks your friend’s partners have? If your best friend’s husband’s best friend works for a great company, ask your friend to help with the introduction. Or throw a dinner party and invite them to warm the relationship a bit. Are you starting to see that your best chances will come from people who are just a few degrees of separation away from you, instead of simply blindly applying for jobs?
Go to educational events in the area you want to break into.
Want to work in HR? Go take an HR training seminar to be surrounded by those in the HR world. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t worked in 7 years, you’re showing your motivation to jump back into it. A training class is a win-win because it boosts your CV and helps you naturally connect with people in the field in a small, intimate setting. Do not, I repeat do NOT, go to an industry fair or some huge conference where you won’t spend meaningful time with anyone. Do small-group trainings (the fewer the participants, the more intimate your connection can be).
Don’t get discouraged.
You won’t get a job overnight, but the worst networking you can do is the kind where you sound bitter or desperate. Like it or not, psychology works in this way: if you talk about how nobody wants to hire you or how hard it has been for you to get a job, the person hearing the story gets the message that you’re not hire-able for some reason. Don’t spread that word! Go into the process knowing that it may take 6 months or so to build the proper connections and look at each opportunity as a building block to something great, not just another failed attempt to get a job. Networking is a numbers game so just start playing the numbers.
What are your super-effective, top-secret tips for networking? Leave a comment below to help other fellow readers!
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