Networking is the exchange of information and the cultivation of productive and authentic relationships. Some people would rather go to the dentist than go to a networking meeting or event. Many avoid it altogether throughout their careers and find themselves in a bind when they are in a job searchand aren’t connected to anyone who can help.
Flossing your teeth daily is proactive and preventive dental care. Networking on a regular basis is a proactive career management strategy that keeps you connected to people who can potentially influence and accelerate your job search. Neglect your teeth and you end up with a lot of pain and a huge dental bill. Neglect your network and you end up with an extended job search and months of lost income. Here are tips for keeping your network healthy and strong.
1. Networking is about asking for information, not asking for favors.
2. When requesting a networking meeting, always stress that you understand how busy the person is and that you just want to meet briefly.
3. When requesting a networking meeting, arrange everything on the other person’s terms; time and location must be convenient for them.
4. While face-to-face networking is always best, graciously accept an opportunity to chat by phone if that is what’s offered to you.
5. Work networking into your daily life — at your kid’s soccer game, church, and even in line at the bank. Everyone is a potential connection.
6. When networking, expect to give more than you get, and soon you will be getting a lot.
7. Spend at least three-quarters of your job-search time networking for optimal results.
8. Find natural touch points like holidays and birthdays to reconnect with your network.
9. Networking is a lot of work, and if your networking is not working you may not be doing enough.
10. Reach out to affinity groups such as professional organizations, corporate or school alumni groups, and community groups to build a network.
11. Network with people who are different than you — older, younger, different ethnicities, different geographies, different industries, etc.
12. Create business cards with your name, contact information, and professional identity, and bring them with you wherever you go.
13. Add a signature line with your name and contact information to all of your e-mails to make you more memorable.
14. Write notes on the backs of business cards you receive at networking events to make each person more memorable.
15. You can’t build a network overnight; try to build your network before you need it.
16. Create a list of companies you are interested in to share with people in your network; ask if they can refer you to anyone at these companies.
17. If you are uncomfortable networking in large groups, ask a more outgoing friend to accompany you.
18. To optimize networking events, go with a friend and network in different circles, then compare notes and leads at the end of the event.
19. Have a few meaningful conversations during networking events instead of trying to meet everyone to collect hundreds of business cards.
20. If you are shy, arrive at networking events early, when the setting is more intimate and the crowds aren’t as overwhelming.
21. Ask people a lot of questions about themselves. People think you are a great conversationalist when you let them do most of the talking.
22. Don’t pass on fee-based networking events in favor of free ones. Assess each opportunity based on the value you think it will offer.