Did you know that 80 percent of job opportunities are found through networking?1 That’s one of the best ways for job seekers to get an advantage in the job search process. Networking at events is a long-term strategy that involves an investment of time in order to build and nurture relationships. It can feel intimidating to new job seekers – but it’s totally worth it!
The fundamentals of networking.
Attend as many networking events as often as you can. It’s a numbers game. The more events you attend, the more connections you will make, and the better your chances of landing a job. Check out these tips to help you ace your next networking event.
1. What to wear.
When in doubt, business casual is the best bet. What you wear says a lot about your commitment to excellence and desire to land the job. Be sure to set a good, long-lasting first impression by dressing the part. In the sea of dark colored suits, you want to stand out, professionally of course, so consider adding a scarf, necklace, pin or tie to accent your garments and show some personality.
2. What to bring.
A plan— simple as that. Think ahead of time about what you want to accomplish at this networking event. What are the types of people you want to meet, and the number of follow-ups you hope to receive? This will help you be more deliberate in your networking2. Don’t leave those business cards and resume at home! Also, remember to ask for the business card of any individual you are talking to and be sure to give one of yours.
3. What not to say.
Listen first, then speak. Can you recall a time when you were in a conversation with someone who continued to talk about him/herself? The person who speaks about him/herself first is only being half listened to. Ask plenty of questions. Be the person who wants to know more about new contacts. Nod, smile, and do everything possible to leave a favorable impression. A good conversation where the other person feels valued and heard is likely to lead to another meeting.
4. What to do afterwards.
It doesn’t matter how much research you do or how well you pursue your targets if you fail to follow up with them after the event. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you’ve contacted your targets within three days of meeting. Refrain from calling by phone unless you really hit it off and have already agreed to meet up. Otherwise, a brief email saying hello and reminding your target of the interesting conversation you had should do the trick.
Networking is about making connections and building enduring, mutually beneficial relationships. After all, relationships are the catalyst to professional success. To succeed, you must continually connect with new people, cultivate emerging relationships and leverage your network. Good luck!