A good networking strategy is more than just using social media, attending job fairs, and going to various networking events. Yes, these are excellent ways to meet new people, but that's just the first step. The next step is to actually get to know these people and allow them to get to know you better. In other words, it's building personal relationships.
When we're in a rush to find a job, this feels like it takes too long. In our mind, we're thinking, "I need to get in front of as many people as possible, quickly." Intuitively, this feels correct. But in reality, it's less about the number of people you meet and more about the depth of the meeting that counts.
Try our strategy and you'll find that you have way more success through more meaningful discussions with 5 people a week than you'll ever have giving a 30 second elevator pitch to 50 people at a single career fair. Why, you ask?
Think about it from the other person's perspective. How comfortable will they be to refer you to someone else if they don't really know you? Their reputation is on the line too. Because of this, it's imperative we make the effort, however time-consuming it may feel, to play the long-game and start developing those relationships. So, today we'll give you a few easy steps that will help make your next network meeting with someone a success.
1. Select the right people for you to meet in person.
Obviously, you don't have enough time in the day to sit down and talk with everyone you meet. So, you have to be a little selective with whom you are devoting time to.
A good place to start discovering those people is friends, family, and neighbors. They may not have direct ties to the field or industry that you're focusing on, however many times they know someone who is. You might also learn about someone who is well connected. This person, in turn can help you get in front of someone more closely related to your targets.
What we're saying is cast a wide net at first and as you draw it in, your networking will become more and more focused.
2. Find a place convenient to them.
You have to always remember that the person who has agreed to meet with you is doing you a favor. They are taking time out of their busy day. You don't want to make this meeting a burden on them.
Sure, when times are tight, you're looking for every way possible to save. However, selecting a meeting place that's close to you but not to them will likely impact how the other person views you. If that's going to keep you from having a productive meeting with good results, why risk it?
At the very least, decide on a spot that is at the midway point. But preferably, select a nice place that's only a few minutes away from where they are, at the time of the meeting.
3. Pick up the tab.
There's a couple of good reasons to take the bill from the server and cover the costs for both of you. First of all, just like we said earlier, they are doing you the favor. This is just good manners. Secondly, when you pay, there's a better chance you'll get something in return. We have a psychological urge to repay people in some way. This is also known in the persuasion world as the Law of Reciprocity.
You might not get a job offer from them right afterword, but if you impressed them and picked up the check, down the road they might have something available or they might introduce you to someone else to network with. Both results are a win.
4. Be prepared with topics and questions.
Nothing feels more awkward than not having anything to say to the other person. As that awkward silence lasts, the worse it feels. To avoid this, always have a few topics on mind that you both can discuss and some questions that you can ask to help get the conversation started. While we don't want you to feel like you should force a conversation, think "F.O.R.C.E.D." as some topics to talk about:
Family or Friends - Siblings, children, parents, and/or friends.
Occupation -Job or school.
Recreation - What they enjoy doing outside of work/school.
Current Events - Popular news or sports items.
Environment - Surroundings, the weather, the food/drink they ordered, or the music playing in the background.
Dreams - Future aspirations.
As the conversation gets more on the topic of work, ask them about what they do, what they like, what their challenges are, how they see the future of the company or industry, and so on. Inevitably, they will ask about you. So have your elevator pitch ready and think about the different questions they might ask you, so you'll be ready with answers.
Finally, ask if there might be anyone else that that they know who would be a good connection to make. At the end of the day, you're goal is to broaden your network of people in the field you want to be in. This is where those job openings that haven't been posted yet will come. The more that people know you and what you're all about, the more likely they will think of you when something comes up.
While they might not ask for one, it's a good idea to bring your resume along just in case they do. So long as you're making a good impression on them, he or she will likely keep it or pass it on to someone else that might have a job opportunity. Because this isn't a job interview, don't hand it to them if it's not asked for, however. That's being a little too forward and may feel off-putting to the other person.
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At RockIt Career Consultation Services, our mission is to help you discover your true strengths and use these strengths to set your course to something more rewarding and exciting in your career.
We will guide you on what job or career best suits you and then help you market yourself through your resume, your networking strategies, your interview skills, and your negotiation to ensure that you are doing something you love and are maximizing your earning potential. Throughout, we will be there to keep you motivated and determined.
We'd love to help you launch your career and encourage you to learn more about the services we can provide you on your path to a more prosperous future. With our help, you will become the applicant every company wants to hire!
5. Respect their time.
We all know that time is in short supply, so make sure that you're not stealing any time away from them.
When you set up your meeting, ask them when a good time would be for them and how much time they have that day to talk. Stick to this schedule. If they tell you they only have 30 minutes, do the meeting over coffee rather than a lunch. Then figure on about 15 minutes of you asking them a few questions and the same for them asking you questions. If they have time for a longer meet-up, you can do this over lunch (if they prefer) and you'll have time add a few more topics and questions.
During the meeting, see how they are behaving. Take note if they keep looking up at the clock or down at their watch. Observe their body language - they might start positioning their body towards the door or put their hands on the chair arms as if to get up. These are all tell-tale signs that it's time to wrap up.
At the end of the meeting say something like, "I know you're busy, so I just want to thank you for your time. I hope we can talk again soon!" Exchange cards, shake hands, and go on with the rest of your day.
A few days later, send him or her a follow-up thank-you card or email about how much you appreciated them taking time out of their day to speak with you and how much you enjoyed the discussion. This small token of appreciation is so often overlooked. Doing something as simple as this, will put you in a great light as well.
Networking isn't as daunting as a lot of people think it is. It's just a matter of doing it right and making it a part of your routine. If you can believe it, 85% of all hires are through referrals. Even though there are thousands of jobs listed on the major job boards at any given time, it's still the old-fashioned personal touch that has the biggest success rate. So get out there and meet new people. You never know what that new relationship will bring!