The Art of Networking
- Target Your Search: Before you start your job search process, do some research on the market. Choose at least two career targets that are realistic for your level of experience and qualifications. DO NOT communicate that you will accept “any job.” If you reach a dead end with a target, you can always broaden or reformulate your job search target.
- Look Everywhere: Once you have job search targets, attend as many meetings, seminars, and events as possible in your chosen target areas. Choose class research projects in your chosen target areas. Look in the library and on the Web for magazines, journals, and databases with information, especially specific company and contact information in your chosen target areas.
- Talk to Everyone: Tell everyone you know that you are looking for opportunities in your target areas. Faculty, alumni, and fellow students are often good sources of job leads and industry information. They may not have direct knowledge of a target area, but may know a colleague or acquaintance who does!
- Keep a Notebook: It is easy to forget information that you receive from a variety of sources. Keep a job search notebook or database with all leads, contacts, and pertinent information on industries, companies, and general market trends. Write notes on the back of business cards you receive to remember what you discussed with that particular individual.
- Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up: The key to a successful job search is persistence. Try to keep in touch with contacts you have met during your education. Send your resume with a friendly note and a case study you may have presented on a company in their industry. Situations change and jobs may open up within their organization or they may hear of an opportunity through a colleague.
How To Work a Room
For many people, the above steps are the easy part—research, communicating by email and phone, keeping notes on contacts—but find the face-to-face situations at networking events and parties to be uncomfortable and awkwardly self-promotional. Here are some tips to help you feel more at ease when mingling with large groups:
- Feeling uncomfortable is natural. According to research, 88% of us feel shy at some point. The choice is to “network or not work.” Instead of thinking of the people at the party as strangers, consider everyone’s common interests and it will make you more comfortable.
- The top two icebreakers are “hi” and “hello.” (Accompanied by a firm handshake—avoid the squeeze.) Small talk about subjects you have in common is not shallow and can lead to more meaningful conversation. It’s better to state the obvious than to stay silent and miss an opportunity.
- Have 3-5 topics prepared to discuss; anything from the national news to industry gossip to something interesting you’ve recently done. Be sure to read the newspaper and your industry trade journal before attending an event.
- Make sure you Observe, Ask, and Reveal (OAR). Observing only is a monologue. Asking only is an interrogation. Revealing only is self-absorbed. To keep things going, ask open-ended questions starting with how or what rather than questions which may elicit yes or no answers only.
- Don’t wait for a proper introduction. Prepare a 7-9 second rehearsed self-introduction and test it out on 3 people—be creative when writing it. Include the benefits of what you bring to the table, as well as your name, program or job title, etc. and lean in, slightly, with a handshake.
- Business events are for meeting lots of people so don’t stick to one person. When ready to move on, summarize the conversation, lean away a bit, say something about looking forward to seeing them again, smile, and walk at least a quarter of the room away.
- Arrive no more than 15 minutes after the event’s start time. This prevents a problem of having to “barge in” on large groups. If you do arrive late, greet the host/hostess, scan the room for an animated group of 3-5 people (two people may be engaged in an intimate or important conversation), stand on the periphery with open body language, and when someone invites you (words, eye contact, facial expression) introduce yourself or ask a question or make a comment relating to the conversation.
Do’s and Don’ts When Meeting with Contacts
- DO offer any information, help and insight you can in return when meeting with a contact. Networking should be mutually beneficial whenever possible.
- DO thank the contact and make plans to meet again. Keep the contact aware of your future career moves and ask about their plans. This process of nurturing contacts will sustain and enhance your career.
- DO ask questions and draw information. Get feedback on your job-search plan, objectives and resume. Do ask for advice, particularly if the person mentions obstacles you might face in reaching your career goals. If the contact can’t help you, ask for the name of someone who can.
- DON’T hesitate to contact others for fear of imposing or asking for help. Most people are happy to do something for someone else if asked. The mistake most people make is not preparing sufficiently for each meeting.