Career Article 149:
Make Networking Work For You
By Tamara Dowling, CPRW
Most people do not use one of the most powerful job search techniques, networking. Perhaps the word "networking" conjures up images of one approaching strangers and asking them for a job. Do not let networking intimidate you.
Networking simply means getting to know people who share your career interests and letting them get to know you. You can start with those closest to you and then fan out. It is easy to make networking work for you. With the success of sites such as LinkedIn, networking has escalated to a whole new level.
With whom should you network?
You can network with anyone you come in contact with. You will find that everyone you meet will not have the capacity to help your career. However, many will know someone who may lead you to someone who can help your career. So, do not make prejudgments or feel like you are wasting your time.
Here are just some networking candidates: your family, friends, past and present co-workers, members of your associations, people you meet at industry functions, former school mates, neighbors, hairdressers, doctors, and more. You can see how the possibilities are endless. Via LinkedIn, you may invite people into your circle with whom you share career experiences. For example, you worked at the same company, in the same occupation, or in the same industry. In this case you may be meeting new people with shared goals or experiences.
What if you do not want your friends and associates to feel uncomfortable?
If you do it right, neither you nor your friends will be uncomfortable.
Before you begin, have a clear vision of your career goal. Using that career goal, create a 30 second 'elevator speech.' This mini speech encapsulates what you are doing, what you want to do, and why you would do it well. Use language anyone would understand with an emphasis on the benefit that you provide. It should leave the other person wanting to hear more about you. At that point you can back-up and fill in the details.
For example, "For 13 years I have been helping individuals and families find the perfect home. I've really enjoyed getting to know the San Diego market and the finer details of real estate contracts. However, I'd like to make the transition to commercial real estate."
Now, that is easy. Plus next time you meet someone and they ask, "What do you do?" or "How is business?" You may use a variation of your elevator speech as your answer.
Some people will jump in and offer names of people you should call, or give you advice. However, others may not offer unless you provide a set-up. With any conversation, it is important to ask questions about the other person, and listen to what they have to say. At the right moment you can follow up to get their input on your career. Here are samples of follow-up for different situations.
Close friends and family: "Do you know anyone who might have expertise in this industry who might share some advice with me? I'm not going to ask them for a job; I am just looking for counsel."
Industry contacts that you know well: "I really value your opinion. You know a lot about ____. Do you have time to give me some suggestions how I can _____?"
Industry contact that you just met: At the appropriate time in the conversation..."Do you have any suggestions for how I might...?"
Quick tips before you start networking
- Networking is a two way street. Be willing to share your knowledge, experience and contacts with others.
- Listen carefully to people when you are talking with them.
- If you tell someone you are not going to ask them for a job, do not ask. Plus, it is much better for someone to get to know you and refer you for a position, or recruit you.
- Be respectful of the contacts you meet. They are sharing valuable time and knowledge. Do not push or go beyond reasonable boundaries.
- Keep a record of your networking and job leads. There are sites such as JibberJobber.com that facilitate this.
- Remember to thank those who help you, and let them know when you land your new job.
Lastly, just do it. Think of all the knowledgeable and well-connected people you could be meeting!
Reference Improvement Guide