Although many people find the concept of networking extremely nerve-wracking, it is a very effective tool for those looking to find a job or to advance their careers. According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, researchers have concluded that the most ideal positions are never posted in an advertisement and that an astounding 85 percent of all new jobs are attained through networking. Despite these impressive statistics, networking remains an underutilized tool for job seekers. Following, then, are five great tips for utilizing networking as a part of your career advancement strategy.
1. Networking, At Its Core, Is Relationship-Building
The biggest mistake newbie networkers make is turning the networking opportunity into an awkward sales pitch with their skill-set as the main product/service for sale. This turns networking into a self-serving practice, rather than the relationship building opportunity that it should be. Always remember that at its core, networking is relationship building.
With that in mind, keep the conversations fun, not formal. Networking efforts should center on the conversation itself, not your end goal. Be genuinely interested in the person you’re speaking with, and be willing to make an exchange (of your time, knowledge and talents) to the person you’re networking with.
Sharing Your Passion
In today’s world, seeing someone operate in their passion is rare–making it all the more interesting, exciting and memorable. If your career path is one that you are genuinely passionate about, share the reasons you were inspired to pursue that career path. (A word of caution–be honest! Great and enduring relationships are built upon honesty and trust.) If you started a non-profit following some type of life-altering experience, tell others about it. Remember, people enjoy working with (or doing business with) others they know and like, so if you have a hobby you’re passionate about, it’s okay to share that information as well.
Use Social Media
Networking is far from a one-time, chance encounter when done properly. The initial conversation can be exceptional, but in order for the relationship to build, you’ll have to nurture it. And social media is an exceptional platform for building and maintaining relationships. You can also use social media to learn about networking events in your area, and you should also research industry-specific networking opportunities you can take advantage of.
Have Business Cards Handy
At a networking function, you may only have a few minutes to chat with another person, and that’s fine. Remember, this is an initial conversation with other interesting, and hopefully like-minded, individuals. Therefore, bring a simple, elegant business card to the event with your contact information (including phone, email, website and/or social media profile page).
Once you’ve truly enjoyed connecting with another individual at a networking event, ask them the best way to stay in touch. Some may prefer social media outlets, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, while others spend a great deal of time checking emails. Follow up, using their preferred method of contact, within 48 hours, to demonstrate your interest in continuing the conversation.
With these tips, job seekers can truly take a huge step forward by harnessing the power of networking.