What Has Your Network Done For You Lately?

EntryLevelLifeButton_C When you’re looking for a job, the importance of networking cannot be emphasized enough. Having a network of contacts is vital to ensuring your job hunt success. Yes, it’s imperative to study hard while you’re in school and do well within your field of study, but the old saying holds true: It’s not what you know, it’s about who you know that counts.

Who you know could bring about some new life-changing possibilities for you – and a job opportunity could be one. That’s why you need to make sure you’re meeting as many people as possible and focusing on building quality relationships with them. And, you always need to continue building your contact base – even after you’ve been working for 30 years. Social networking is great, and it’s definitely a must, but doing a little networking in person also never hurts. So, what are some basic tips to ensure your networking works for you?

Meet in person. Regardless of what type of networking you do, there’s still no substitute for meeting a person face-to-face and shaking hands. A direct meeting helps leave more of a lasting impression of who you are.

Start going to professional meetings. There are many professional organizations within your field of interest. Usually, they have regular meetings once a month and charge a small fee to attendees. But, it’s often worth the investment! This is a great place for you to meet several people at once and gain some new knowledge, since many of these meetings bring in guest presenters to broaden your skills. If you are unsure what professional meetings are available in your city, contact your local chamber of commerce to find out which organizations can benefit you.

Be prepared at all times. To ensure you put your best foot forward and present a great first impression, always have business cards and your résumé on hand with all of your contact information. In addition, have an elevator speech prepared. Be able to identify your skills and the type of job you’re looking for. Also, don’t avoid bragging about yourself a little. This is your chance to tell why you’d be a great employee. The goal is to show your networking contact how polished and confident you are – but just be sure to not come across as too confident because that can make you look arrogant.

Follow-up with contacts. Your networking’s not over just because the networking event ended. You have to continue building relationships with the professionals you meet. Send a quick e-mail or mail a note after the meeting to let key contacts know how glad you were to meet them. This will give potential employers a chance to respond back to you, helping open the door for more communication down the road.

Online networking. Be sure to have an online presence when it comes to networking. Create profiles on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and add the professional contacts you know. Networking is most effective when you combine both face-to-face and online options. After you meet someone in person, send them a friend request on Facebook, add them as a connection on LinkedIn, or follow them on Twitter.  Just, be aware of what your social networks reveal about you and make sure you project the same impression online that you do in person.

Networking is a great way to get your foot in the door when you’re looking for work. Building a broad range of connections is a good idea – but just remember to build relationships with those contacts! Doing so takes time, but the end result is well worth the effort because the top way that people find a job is through a referral. So, get started today!

Use Networking Opportunities to Your Advantage

Organizations, associations and other social groups are an excellent place to network when you’re looking for a new job. After all, the majority of job offers stem from word-of-mouth or networking. Follow these tips on how to use networking to your advantage, and you’ll be well on your way to your next job.

1. Get out there. Take the first step in establishing your own network by getting out and meeting new people. Check out local groups and organizations in your field and find out when they’re hosting their next event. Some host presentations on specific topics, which are beneficial to your professional development, and others host strictly networking gatherings. Make a point to attend the events that appeal to your interests and that will provide you with an opportunity to meet people who work in your field. These groups and organizations can range and vary from a service organization to a local engineering club.

2. Engage in conversation. Once you’re at the event, make sure to mingle with as many people as you can. Introduce yourself, shake hands and start a dialogue with each person. Ask them open-ended questions so that the conversation is not abruptly ended. You can ask about their current job, what they like and don’t like about it, and what steps someone else could take to get to their position. If the person seems genuinely interested in you and returns some of the same questions, you can begin to ask about job opportunities within their company or ones they are aware of. Then, offer your résumé and politely mention you’re looking for a job, without sounding desperate or begging for a referral.

After exchanging business cards or contact information, jot down a memorable trait about the person or part of your conversation on the back of the card. This will help you remember who you talked to and you’ll be able to picture their face in your mind the next time you pick up their card.

3. Build a relationship. The whole point of networking is building relationships. Once you’ve met someone at an event, you need to continue that relationship. Someone isn’t going to offer you a job because they saw you from across the room. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Learn more about each other’s hobbies, goals and career inspirations. Then when a job opportunity arises, that person will be willing to tell you about the open position and confidently recommend you for the job. Someone you have a relationship with is much more likely to recommend you for a position or share job opening information with you than a mere acquaintance would, so work on those relationships that you’ve already started and you’ll be one step ahead of other job seekers.

4. Don’t rush it. Building any relationship takes time and effort. It’s unlikely you’ll be recommended for a job by someone you just met. Plus, you never know who they might know. As the relationship grows, be patient. When the right opportunity comes along, your contact will be able to fully recommend you for the position. In the meantime, continue attending other events and expanding your personal network.

5. Keep in touch. After you’ve found a job, thank your contacts for their help and make sure to keep in touch with them. Your contacts can often offer advice to you when you’re in a new job and need someone to turn to. And if you’re ever in need of another job, you’ll have maintained your relationship with them and be ready to start searching again.

Your network can help you land your next job, so follow the tips above and use networking to your advantage and, remember the saying, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.”

Do you have an established network? What advice do you have for others looking to build their network?