Networking is an essential skill for finding your next job. In fact, surveys reveal that approximately 80% of job seekers find work as a result of a referral from a friend of colleague. Here are the top ten tips to networking your way into a new job.
1. Prepare your “30 second elevator pitch”
No matter who you are talking to, the inevitable question “what are you looking to do?” will have to be answered. This is your time to shine by describing who you are and what you do. It’s best to focus on your strengths, citing any unique skills, knowledge, or experience you may have. Marketing expert Larry Chase recommends simplifying your pitch to keep it quick and concise. “I find people appreciate it when you can deliver your pitch in less time than they anticipated. It telegraphs that you are clearly focused and waste no time getting to the point,” he has said. Don’t forget to be calm and confident. Anticipate questions and remember your pitch must reflect who you are.
2. Leverage Personal Contacts
Your network is bigger than you think. It doesn’t just include those whom you have worked with - it can also include family acquaintances. We all have heard similar stories of how Uncle Billy’s neighbor’s son works at XYZ, which happens to be the same place you are looking to work. This is the perfect example of using your personal contacts to help you in networking. Take advantage of your family’s contacts because you never know when it could lead to your next job--it’s never a waste of time to talk with your contacts!
3. Maintain Relationships With Former Colleagues
It’s worth keeping in touch with former colleagues. According to CareerXRoad’s 2007 Annual Sources of Hire Survey, 34% of new hires brought in from outside an organization were due to employee referrals. Don’t forget to keep in touch with your former co-workers and other business contacts.
4. Join Online Social Networking Websites
Sign up for LinkedIn. It’s great to way to start networking and to keep in touch with former colleagues and classmates. You can also develop new contacts easily. Users on LinkedIn display their education, work experience, contact information and interests, whether that be "career opportunities, consulting offers, new ventures, job inquiries, or reference requests." LinkedIn also gives updates on the people within your online network and shows which companies in your area are hiring. The best feature, hands down, is the ability to see how you are connected to people already at companies where you are applying for jobs. Nothing better than a warm referral. Tip: Download the LinkedIn toolbar if you are actively looking for positions and using job boards to apply.
5. Be Active With Your Alumni Organizations
Take advantage of the Alumni office at your alma mater. They can help you locate alumni in your area, as well as keep you informed on upcoming alumni events, such as class reunions, and homecomings. You never know if the person who sat beside you in English 101 class could be working at a great company which needs your services.
6. Contribute on Message boards and web forums
Online message boards and web forums such as www.vault.com are like a virtual water cooler--conversations can be informal or professional. They allow you to seek advice, answer other users' questions, as well as inform everyone what your goals are in a secure environment. No one has to know that you work at XYZ; you can share what you want to, when you want to.
7. Attend Professional Events and Join Associations
No matter what profession you are in, there are always opportunities to join professional associations or attend industry-wide events. These organizations and events are a key component to helping you expand your network. The more events you attend, the greater visibility you will have. The more involved you are within your organization, such as giving presentations or serving on a committee, the more people will be drawn to you, which can only result in more opportunities for you to network.
8. Initiate Informational Interviews
One of the best ways to gain more information about an occupation or industry -- and to build a network of contacts in that field -- is to talk with people who are currently working in the field. That's why it's key to initiate informational interviews because they can help you learn more about the number of openings within the company as well as give you more information on the position you are interested in.
9. Attend Trade Shows
Trade shows are another opportunity for you to expand your network and even give out your resume. Kenneth Carpenter attended a trade show for the technology industry and thought it was a long shot that he would ever find a job. After giving his resume to one of the exhibitors at the company he wanted to work for, he had an offer within two weeks. The lesson learned here is don't underestimate the importance of attending trade shows because even if you don’t receive an interview, they will always have people you can include in your professional network.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is by not asking for help on finding leads or interviews. Don't be afraid to ask for help, for many people within your network are just a phone call away and they will have had to look for a job at some point throughout their career. Even if they can't secure an interview for you, they can always give you career advice, which can help further develop your network of contacts.
Remember that networking can happen anytime, anywhere. Good luck!