Even with new job search tools such as job search engines, niche-industry job boards, and the plethora of social media sites, more people are still hired through word of mouth than any other method. Certainly, sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Indeed.com can be extremely beneficial in making contacts and uncovering opportunities. But people still like to meet, recommend, and ultimately hire people with whom they’re comfortable with. Personal recommendations and introductions are golden which means that making a personal connection or being introduced to someone who can facilitate the hiring process can boost your chances exponentially.
Many people find the networking process to be uncomfortable or downright painful. But with so much riding for job seekers and professionals on making solid contacts and connections, it pays to know how to effectively network especially in social or group situations.
By following these 4 essentials, you can turn your networking fear into bravado and not just survive—but thrive—at your next event.
1- Look the part and be prepared.
Always look like the true professional you are. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, so consider the event theme, venue, and objective when deciding what to wear. Look like you brought you’re A-Game so you represent your “brand” well. Think about why you’re attending this event and who you want to meet. Prepare and practice your introduction and how you will handle the inevitable “what do you do?” question especially if you’re in-between positions.
2- Focus on asking questions and use TAR.
Generally, people like to talk about themselves so start the conversation by asking simple questions about what they do or why they decided to attend the event. “Peel the onion.” Most people like to help people so asking for tips, advice, and recommendations (remember: TAR) about how you can better market yourself for a particular position or in a specific industry is recommended. DON’T SELL! Look for commonalities and similar goals to build rapport and remember to exchange business cards.
3- Always give more than you get.
The best way to build your network and enlist people to help you is by first helping them. If you’re speaking with a salesperson or business owner ask “How can I recognize a good prospect for you?” Or “Is there someone I can introduce you to?” People feel inclined to help you when you offer to help them. Be sincere, take an interest in what they do, and then use your network, expertise, and connections to help them any way you can.
4- Follow up.
After an event, ensure you follow up with anyone you offered to connect with, help out, or send information to. Be prompt in your response. This may be a good opportunity to invite people to connect on LinkedIn, or invite them out for coffee or lunch. Remember that the person who does the inviting—pays.
- Use humor. People love to laugh and enjoy people who are friendly and positive!
- Bring a networking buddy if you’re very shy or hesitant about attending.
- Don’t appear desperate!
The only way to improve your networking skills is to get out and do it. Set a goal of attending one networking event each week for the next two months. The time spent making connections and getting to know other professionals will far outweigh the benefits of surfing endless online job postings that may or may not even be active. Ask around and find out what networking and professional events offer the best chance for you to meet people who can make things happen for you. Take it one step further and invite people out to lunch or coffee and build your base. Before you know it, you’ll have a solid base of networking contacts for connecting people you know to opportunities while also jump starting your own job search!