Well, networking is a slow but steady process. It may not feel like the fastest route to your next job, but it is certainly the most effective.
You’ve heard the saying “slow but steady wins the race.”
This saying is true for job search as well.
Tossing your resume up on every job board or applying to any job you see may seem like the fastest route to a new job, but it isn’t.
Most jobs are filled through referrals. And in order to get referred by someone, you must network.
For those who don’t like networking and haven’t stayed in touch with past colleagues, let me warn you, this will take some time. Networking is a winding road sometimes and it requires patience as you reconnect with friends and build new relationships. Again, let me warn you, networking is a winding road and it’s not necessarily the fastest route to your next job. But it is the most effective.
Here’s what you need to know about networking.
You Won’t Land A Job During Your First Conversation
Please don’t expect to immediately gain ANYTHING from networking because the point of networking is to build relationships and that just takes time.
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. People need to feel they know, like and trust you before they are willing to turn over valuable information (information such as names of people they know or about jobs). Stop expecting so much from that first encounter.
How To Build A Relationship
So what will you talk about when you first meet someone? Actually, you don’t really need to do much talking, just ask them questions and learn about the person you are meeting. Try to find something in common. (Make Small Talk)
Your conversation can start on a personal level – interests, activities, or where the person is from. Or it may be professional – associations they belong to, groups they attend, past employers, or 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?
- 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 are additional open-ended questions you can tailor to your needs in this post, Networking Is a Waste of Time, Or Is It?
What’s the Difference Between Networking and an Informational Interview?
An “Informational Interview” or as I prefer to call it an informational meeting are one and the same. When you ask to meet someone whom you may or may not know and ask to learn more about what they do or for information about the company they work for, that is an informational meeting.
Networking is a more general conversation, though it may lead to an informational meeting. Most people are flattered to be asked, IF, you ask in a flattering way. Informational Interviews is Networking lays this out.
You will hear these terms used interchangeably. In short, networking is the broad, overarching action of having a conversation. Informational meetings are specific conversations in which you learn about someone’s experience, background or company.
Staying In Touch
Once you’ve had your meeting and gathered information, it is up to you to find reasons to stay in touch with the person, this is called nurturing your network. This is one of the most important aspects of networking and your job search. A single meeting will not be enough to keep you top of mind. Connecting on LinkedIn is one way to solidify your relationship and makes it easier to keep in touch. But you can and should find reasons to reach out to the person you met with. Here are some ideas:
- Provide an update on your exploration/job search
- Invite someone to join you in attending an event
- Share an article or book you think will be of interest
- Introduce two people you think will benefit from knowing one another
You can find other ways to stay in touch here Nurture Your Network with These 11 Ideas
The best route to your next job comes when you invest time meeting people who can help you gain information and help spread the word about what you can do.
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.