You’ve heard the saying “slow but steady wins the race”. (Think about the Tortoise and the Hare).
Well, networking is a slow but steady process. It may not be the fastest route to your next job, but it is certainly the most effective route. It requires you have some patience as you build your network of trusted friends and connections.
Please don’t expect to immediately gain ANYTHING from networking because the point of networking is to build relationships and that just takes time. Stop expecting so much from that first encounter. Your first meeting with someone, whether it be at an event or even over coffee is supposed to be about building a connection. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t.
So what will you talk about? Actually, you don’t really need to do much talking, just ask them questions and learn about them. Try to find something in common with this person as well. (Make Small Talk) It could be personal- interests, activities, where they are from, professional associations, current events (stay away from religion and politics). Ask open-ended questions to really get the dialogue going. Here are some to think about:
- Are you originally from the area?
- What made you decide to come to this event?
- What is it you do?
- How long have you been doing it?
- How did you get into your line of work (always better if you can personalize this by stating the line of work, rather than generic, it shows you’ve been listening)
There is a host of additional open ended questions you can tailor for your needs in this post, Networking Is a Waste of Time, Or Is It?
Think Before You Speak shows examples of scripted dialog you could use to open up a “cold call” to someone you don’t know. These are tough calls to make, so whenever possible, you really want to ask your contacts who they know and how they know them, so you can make a “warm” call. (Oh, by the way, this is networking!) Remember, you are trying to build a relationship!
What is an “Informational Interview?” or as I prefer to call it a meeting? It is when you ask to meet someone whom you may or may not know and request to meet with them to learn more about what they do or the company they work for (and build a relationship). Most people are flattered to be asked, IF, you ask in a flattering way. Informational Interviews is Networking lays this out.
Once you’ve had your meeting and gathered information and hopefully a couple of new contact names, you’ll want to make sure to keep in touch with this person (this is nurturing your network). Use LinkedIn to solidify your relationship is one good idea, Keep In Touch lists 2 other tools to make this easier for you.