Tips to Successfully Network
How many times have job hunters heard that, nowadays, it isn’t what you know but who you know? Those of us who have close friends or relatives that are in powerful positions are in luck, but what about the rest of us? Instead of futilely pouting about how unfair our lot in life is, we can put ourselves out there, learn from mistakes and actively build our professional connections.
1) Like any good girl scout can tell you, it pays to always be prepared. Throughout your day, you are unknowingly rubbing elbows with people from all walks of life – without you being the wiser, the person standing behind you in the line at Starbucks could be upper management at a growing company or married to someone in a senior position in your field. Therefore, it is wise to be on your best behavior when out in public; don’t get embarrassingly drunk at happy hour or unnecessarily cuss up a storm, as you never know who is watching. Additionally, a little bit of forethought can make a fantastic impression – pulling out a resume from a leather portfolio or a business card from an elegant card holder will be received much more favorably than sloppily scribbling the person’s email on the back of your hand.
2) Networking is about tact, strategy and likability, three characteristics that do not happen by accident. In order to be able to “hold your own” against a more-experienced professional, make sure that you are well-informed about industry news and events, and thoroughly form your opinion instead of brashly making sweeping statements. Instead of brazenly asking people if “they are hiring,” subtly transition into the subject matter by talking about what most people like best: themselves. By asking thoughtful questions about the individual’s career track and background, you are demonstrating genuine interest and enthusiasm. Furthermore, this opens up the conversation to the person you are chatting with to now naturally return the questions, allowing you to artfully discussing your own experience. No one enjoys or respects a complainer, so do not badmouth your current job and, instead, guide the conversation towards your future goals.
3) Remember, networking is never a waste of time. Even if you do not see any immediate rewards in building a professional relationship with someone, the working world is never stagnant. A few years down the line, the executive assistant you befriended might be the vice-president of human resources at a promising start-up, right around the time in which you are growing antsy in your current position. Furthermore, your job description might change as you progress, meaning that your acquaintance’s skills that were previously irrelevant might suddenly become helpful. Therefore, it is not only nice to help others when you have the opportunity to do so, but also savvy. People tend not to forget favors, and grabbing a cup of coffee to informally provide them with some insight might one day pay off in droves.
There will undoubtedly be times when your networking efforts won’t yield the desired results. It is important not to become dejected or take any rebuffing too much to heart. After all, just because one prospect doesn’t work out, the next one might lead to exciting opportunities.