Networking is one of the demons job seekers dread, avoid, and start too late. But if you keep these five networking tips in mind, you’ll find there are opportunities to network, the right way, everywhere.
The truth is when you network you aren’t asking for a job. You’re seeking information. And let’s agree to stop calling these one-on-one meetings an informational interview. It isn’t an interview at all.
It’s a conversation. It’s a meeting.
Here are networking tips to help you do this better!
Be Clear and Sincere
Your request for a conversation must be sincere and free of hidden agendas. You will not ask for a job, you won’t even mention the word job during your conversation. In all honesty, you don’t even know if you want a job there yet. You need to get the insider’s perspective, advice and information first.
To help you secure the meeting, phone call or chat, make sure you’re crystal clear about the types of questions and topics you plan on covering. Remember, your goal is to acquire information, advice or recommendations. You can use this list to develop your networking meeting questions.
When you email someone, include a link to your LinkedIn profile and your value proposition. Your value proposition is focused on the needs of others and speaks to how you can help potential employers. It describes the problem or problems you solve. For example, a value proposition may read like this:
“Inspiring new business growth for small business owners by helping them target and engage with the right audience on social media platforms.”
Tap Your Friends’ Friends
Your friends would like to help you, but they usually don’t know how. Do the heavy lifting and research who your friends know.
Look on Facebook and LinkedIn to see who is in their network. After you’ve done your research, email your friend and ask for an introduction.
Remember to explain exactly why his or her contact is of value to you. (Hint, it’s not about asking about jobs, it’s about asking for advice, information or recommendations).
It’s best to craft an email that your friend can easily forward along to their contact. Your message should explain briefly why you want to meet this person and a concise summary of your background. It will make it much easier for your friend to take action because all they need to do is forward your message with their own brief note!
Participate in Professional Groups
The easiest way to network with other professionals in your industry or occupation is to attend in-person or online meetings or events. You can find these groups by searching the internet, asking professionals you know what groups they belong to, or even researching LinkedIn profiles of people in your industry to see if they’ve listed any professional associations or groups.
LinkedIn Events are another good way to learn and meet new people. You can search LinkedIn and filter by Events to find topics of interest.
FYI: LinkedIn Groups is another place to engage with professionals. If you want to connect with someone but have no mutual connections, carefully research the groups this person belongs to and join some of them. Once you share a group, you can reach out. This is a little-known secret and one of the best reasons to be active in groups!
Connect on LinkedIn
If there are people you used to work with that you aren’t connected with yet, invite them to connect on LinkedIn. Similarly, if there are people you know (a lot or a little) in your industry, send them an invitation to connect.
Almost any message is better than the default message LinkedIn sends. Take one second and insert your own words to personalize your reason for wanting to connect.
Your message is limited to 185 characters, so you are forced to keep it short and sweet. Include these three elements in your LinkedIn introduction:
- State how you know the person you’re inviting.
- Explain why you want to connect with him or her.
- Present your offer of reciprocity.
Email may be a better option for reaching out. Not everyone checks LinkedIn but you do know they will be checking email.
Keep In Touch
Once you’ve connected or met with someone, keep in touch.
Serving as a conduit of information is one way you can maintain your relationships. Share information that you think will help them. For example, you can send your new networking contact an interesting article.
Take note of birthdays, work anniversaries or mentions in the news. Send a note of congratulations.
Make it a goal to reach out at least once every three months. This helps you stay top of mind.
To see more ideas on how to stay top of mind, read this: Nurture Your Network with These 11 Ideas
The bottom line
It is the strength of your relationships that will help you learn about future opportunities and meet new contacts in your career field.
Don’t put off these important conversations.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.