Simple Tips for Effective Networking
Networking is a core aspect of any job search, but it’s also the element that makes many jobseekers the most apprehensive. If networking makes your palms feel clammy, consider these strategies to ease the process.
Research Your Audience
Before any networking event, try to learn about who might attend. By researching the organizations or people involved, you can better prepare effective talking points for your audience. You might also find it useful to contact the person organizing the networking event. They might be able to give you valuable intel about the event, including dress code, activities, or the types of people who’ve RSVP’d. The event coordinator might even be able to personally introduce you to contacts at the event.
As you prepare for a networking event, think about potential icebreakers you can use to open dialogue with other attendees. Drawing from current events and local news can be a great way to initiate a conversation. How is your local sports team doing? Are there any new local legislations or public events that interest you? Icebreakers can help ease tension and nervousness that you might feel while networking.
This is a critical component of networking. Remember that it’s a two-way street; you don’t want to simply talk about yourself and your needs. Try to learn about other attendees and give them an opportunity to talk about themselves. Asking open-ended questions is better than asking questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions encourage the other person to provide a more comprehensive, thought-out response that can advance a discussion. “Yes or No” questions stagnate conversation and can make both parties feel uneasy.
Set Clear Goals
If you enter a networking event planning to meet 10 people or collect 15 business cards, it’s going to make the process easier. Define clear yet realistic benchmarks for your networking activities. Typically, you don’t want to spend a whole networking event talking to one person; it’s like putting all your eggs in one basket. Establishing specific targets will keep you on track and help you use your time wisely.
Listen to Others
Effective networkers are the best active listeners. Again, networking is a two-way street. Sometimes the best way to help yourself is to help others first. If you can suggest a connection or provide valuable advice for the people you meet at a networking event, you’ll build stronger rapport than if you simply sit back and wait for others to assist you and your needs.
Follow Up with Contacts
For networking to be effective, it’s critical to follow up with your contacts. Making a connection is useless if you don’t keep in touch with the contact after an event. Try to reach out to everyone you meet within 24 hours. Even a very brief thank-you note will do.
Does networking make you uncomfortable? Consider some of these simple tips to help ease the process and make it a productive part of your job search. With time and practice, you’ll gain confidence and networking won’t seem as daunting.