There are many articles, blogs and books on networking, with long lists of tips and advice on how to build your professional network.
As a recruiter, my best advice is to be prepared to focus on two objectives:
1) Listen Attentively and Actively
Networking is a two-way street and it is very important to listen to the person you are talking to and understand what you could help him or her with.
Even if you do not have the skills needed to help solve a problem, you may know someone who could.
People will pay more attention to you if you are trying to be helpful, and you will generally get much more in return when you genuinely care about their problems.
When you truly actively listen, your connection is more genuine and often more remembered. You may even find different ways to help each other.
2) Be Succinct
You must know what you want and be able to clearly articulate to the individual you are meeting.
It is a great idea to write down what you want to convey to another person.
Do your homework and fine-tune the key points you would like to talk about when you meet someone.
Practice your pitch, and make sure it flows naturally. It will be a lot easier for you to talk about your goals and objectives after rehearsing them over and over.
Below are some important questions you should be able to answer without stopping to think:
Have you clearly defined your career choice?
Are you trying to contact a specific list of target companies?
Do you want help with your resume?
What exactly do you need help with?
Do you have questions about a job posting?
10 Tips for Networking Success
- Arrive early to a networking event – fewer people generally means conversations will be easier.
- Have a mental checklist of your accomplishments – be clear, concise.
- Don’t overpower the conversation with your sales pitch.
- Smile, be friendly when you meet someone and watch your/their body language.
- Your goal should be to get more contact information than you give out – don’t worry if others don’t take your card. With their information, you can do the calling.
- Make a list of contacts you want to make and select networking events wisely.
- Ask a question to join a conversation at a networking event.
- Make it a habit to make introductions and connect like-minded people.
- Initiate a conversation in gatherings where you are comfortable (e.g. even at a baseball game). Be aware of your surroundings and opportunities.
- If you don’t follow-up, you fail. Follow-up with your contacts within 48 hours.
One of my strongest networkers once told me,
“Doesn’t everyone always have time for a cup of coffee? I always do.”
A great reminder that it all starts with making the connection!
Candace Nelson is a partner at TBN Consulting, LLC a search firm for direct hire, contract and freelance professionals.
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