FAQ About Networking

Networking FAQ

1) What are the different ways to network?

Social Media: Websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook offer plenty of chances to connect with people to establish new connections and keep in touch with established ones. LinkedIn is particularly useful for finding and attracting people that are particularly well positioned to be an asset for your specific career goals. However, the relationships we build online tend to be much weaker than those we make in person. For a solid network, you will need to get offline and get some face time with people.

Friends and Family: The strongest relationships you have are made of the people who know you best. However, they can’t aid your professional success if they are not current on the kinds of work you are doing and hope to be doing in the future. Be sure you keep these folks in the loop with your career ambitions so they can let you know about opportunities as they become aware of them.

Professional and Alumni Associations: To make the most of these kinds of events, be sure to bring your business cards and make an effort to meet new people and get beyond small talk into meaningful conversations about shared interests. Look for opportunities to be helpful to those you meet such as putting them into contact with someone you know that might help them. Follow up with an invitation to lunch or coffee to cement your new connections.

Volunteering: Getting active on an issue that you care about in your community is an outstanding way to make real relationships in your area that can turn into valuable professional contacts. It is also a chance to showcase your skills to make them visible to people from all walks of life that just might hear about an outstanding opportunity to put your skills to work that may never even be advertised!

2) How important is networking to finding a new job?

Extremely important, particularly for jobs that go beyond entry level. An estimated 70-80% of jobs are never advertised. Instead, these positions are filled by people promoted internally or recruited through strong networks that identify the right person for the job without the need to engage in a time consuming and expensive hiring process. If you want to be considered for the large number of unadvertised positions, a strong network is your best bet.

Even if a job is advertised, having the right network connection can give you a valuable edge when it comes to getting noticed and moving from application, to interview, to hire. If someone in the company is willing to reach out to the hiring team and provide a reference as to your skills, talents, personality or work ethic, it can dramatically tip the scales in your favor.

In addition to helping in an immediate job search, a network pays dividends over the course of your career and should be nurtured and maintained accordingly. Keeping in touch with industry movers and shakers keeps you on top of trends and market conditions in your field and may turn into a fantastic opportunity down the road when you are not even looking for a job!

3) What are the top social media platforms that I should leverage in the context of my job search?

LinkedIn: This site pretty much has the professional networking platform market cornered. It is completely geared towards building an online professional portfolio using a variety of media options. In addition, advanced search tools allow you to find and connect with others that are best positioned to become valuable members of your professional network. This is the site where most career driven folks maintain an active and thorough profile which showcases their personal brand.

Facebook: One of the most powerful and well used social media platforms, Facebook is a way to keep in touch with your personal network, which can be valuable in terms of your job search. Don’t miss out on using the groups and events features to find people in your area with shared interests, hobbies or volunteering work so that you can find local events to attend to get out and meet people face to face to build solid relationships in your community.

Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram: Although they tend to be most helpful as promotional platforms for entrepreneurs, these sites do give you a chance to connect with others and build your personal brand with images and content. If you plan to use these platforms to attract potential professional contacts, be sure the link to your LinkedIn profile is easy to find which will lead folks back to your in-depth professional portfolio found there. If you happen to be in a creative profession such as photography, these image rich platforms are particularly well suited to showcase and promote your work, a valuable way to attract potential clients and even future employers.

4) What types and how many contacts are the best for an effective network?

When you think about your network, it can be helpful to think in terms of depth and breadth. You need some of both for a high functioning professional network.

Deep Professional Relationships: These are people that you know well and have a strong relationship with that includes a history of working together, mutual support, and promoting each other whenever you have the chance. This group requires the most time investment per person in the long run but is also the smallest group – usually between 5-10 people.

Colleagues, Past and Present: These are folks you have worked with directly, either from paid or volunteer work. They know your face and may even know you well enough to offer an important reference. These contacts help you stay on top of changes in your field and may find out about important opportunities. The more mature your career, the larger this group will grow and may be anywhere between 20-200 people.

Be selective with this group but don’t miss a chance to recommend one of these folks for an opportunity or invite them for coffee. During a job search, this is the group with whom you are likely to spend the most time reaffirming your connection with in person to make sure they keep you in mind if they hear about unadvertised opportunities that are a strong fit for your talents and career ambitions.

Professional Acquaintances: These are people that you know only through online contacts or third-party connections. While they tend to be the most numerous group in your network (some people count them in the thousands!) they are also the least likely to have you at the forefront of their minds because your connection is weak.

Make sure to keep you time investment here as efficient as possible – the occasional comment on a social media post or sending them a link to an opportunity or article that might interest them. In addition, if you sense the potential for a special connection with someone in this group, consider putting in some face time to see if you can bump them up a level in your network with some real relationship building.

5) What are the key things I should keep in mind to be a more effective networker?

Be Proactive: Build or reaffirm real world connections with people who are in the best position to help you in the next leg of your career.

If you are in the job search, this may mean catching up with old coworkers that are now working at another company where they may be able to put in a word for you when a job opening comes up. If you are happy with your current job but want to make sure you are positioned for that next big opportunity, it may mean reaching out to a colleague that has recently advanced to congratulate them and get some perspective on what it means to reach the next level.

Bring Others Together: If you see a chance to connect other people in your network with each other in truly helpful ways, then go for it. This is a powerful way to help two people in your network at the same time while simultaneously strengthening your bond with both.

Connect in Meaningful Ways: The pressure to network has led many people to randomly contact others they don’t know through networking sites asking for help. This is definitely the wrong approach. If you are just “noise” to the person you are approaching, it can even be harmful to try to establish a connection. Instead, look for truly meaningful reasons to connect, looking to be helpful rather than demanding whenever possible.

Follow Up: When you meet someone at a job fair, professional conference, or even a social event that you think might offer a valuable contact in your network, it is critical to follow up with an invitation to a one-on-one meeting (say coffee or lunch). This can turn a very casual acquaintance into a solid node in your network.

6) How can I make the most of networking if I’m not good with people?

Shared Passions: For some people, the reason professional networking seems like such a tedious and even terrifying chore is that it feels deeply insincere, indeed, fake. If this is the case for you, no worries. You can look for authentic connections attending events around shared interests (think professional, volunteer, or hobbies). That way, instead of starting a conversation that is focused on you, you can break the ice talking about something you know you both enjoy.

Ask Questions: A simple trick that many introverts learn early in their professional careers is how to ask great questions, listen carefully, then ask great follow up questions. This puts the pressure on the extrovert to fill the void in a conversation, most of whom love to talk about themselves and appreciate a great listener. Practice asking some questions with some friends or family before your next networking event to get your confidence up before trying it with strangers.

Be Yourself: It might sound cliché, but honestly, authentic people are highly valued and, frankly, a rare commodity. You don’t have to be the loudest, funniest, or smartest to contribute and be appreciated for what you bring to the table.

Offer to Help: If you see an opportunity to help, take it. It is one of the easiest ways to make an authentic new connection with a person and get a conversation started in a natural way.

7) How can I prepare an effective “elevator speech” that I can use when I meet people?

An elevator speech is typically a short, memorized speech that puts your absolute best foot forward as a potential star hire in your dream job role, delivered in under 30 seconds. It can be very helpful to have ready for networking events so you have a clear and prepared way to introduce yourself.

Develop your story in text form so that you can manipulate and edit it until every word is perfect. Your elevator speech may contain the following, depending on the circumstances:

  • An overview of your current or most recent work.
  • A major accomplishment that highlights your talents.
  • An articulation of your dream job and why you are passionate about it.
  • Your Unique Selling Point – some experience or attribute that makes you stand out.
  • The Hook – a question or phrase that draws the listener in to further conversation or piques their interest to learn more about you.

Continue to edit your pitch until it reads like a smooth story that is accurate, sharp, concise, and authentic. Then, practice, practice, practice. Ask for feedback from friends and professional colleagues to continue to refine your delivery as well.

You don’t have to actually deliver your elevator pitch word for word. The point of practicing it is to get comfortable with all of the elements and the precise wording and to get used to introducing yourself in this “best foot forward” way.

After you deliver your pitch, memorized or adapted, have your business card ready to hand over. Then, listen to what the person has to say and be present for any follow up conversation. Get their contact information as well, and of course, follow up afterwards.

8) How can I make a good impression when I meet someone new?

Use people’s names. Whenever possible, quickly learn and use people’s names. It can go a long way to make you appear thoughtful and engaged as well as give the people you are meeting a little bit of a boost.

Be authentic. People sense when others are trying too hard to be liked – it is a major turn off. Instead, just relax and be your best professional self. When you are sincere and present it goes a long way to put other people at ease as well, adding up to smoother conversations and a more positive impression of you.

Ask questions about people’s passions. If you ask open ended questions and listen carefully to the answers, you can usually find common ground to build a great conversation around. Once you find that common ground, then share a story or anecdote that you think is likely to resonate with your new contact.

Prepare a few light work anecdotes. It can really help to have a few stories to share on the ready. You only want to trot them out if they are brief, humorous and naturally fit into the conversation. However, a funny story can make you more memorable.

Know the big players in advance. Take some time to research the keynote speakers, companies or organizations that will be attending the event in advance. This gives you a way to open up a conversation that shows a special interest in the person you are talking to – a great way to get things off to a great start!

Follow up. Make sure that you take the time to follow up with people that you connected with after the event by inviting them to coffee or lunch. Here is the chance to turn that great first impression into a lasting one!

9) What should I bring with me to a networking event (e.g. job fair, etc.)?

Business Cards: Make sure they are memorable yet tasteful and clearly convey your brand. Consider a short tag line in lieu of extraneous information such as a physical address. This will help remind the person of who you are when they sort through their cards after the event.

Printed Resumes: You should not be handing out resumes left and right. However, having some on the ready in case it comes up in a conversation is a good idea. Make sure the graphics, fonts, and overall layout is consistent with your branding efforts.

Pen and Pad: It never hurts to be able to pull out a small pad to jot down a note. Sure, you have your mobile device, but sometimes that pad really comes in handy. Jot down thoughts immediately after meeting someone for personalized follow up notes that will demonstrate your attention to detail.

Goals: Although it is not a physical thing to bring to a networking event, taking some time to decide in advance what your goals and metrics for a successful event will be is a way to focus on measurable results. Read on to the next FAQ to learn more about goals setting for network events.

10) What goals should I set for a networking event?

Setting goals before attending a networking event is a great way to make sure you are being efficient with your time as well as giving you some metrics for success to shoot for. As you get more comfortable attending such events you can set even loftier goals.

Here are some starter goals that even beginners can try to accomplish at a networking event:

  • Introduce yourself to at least three people you don’t know.
  • Pass out at least 5 business cards.
  • Help at least one person at the event connect with someone in your network.
  • Research, identify, and approach at least one strategic target who you know in advance will be at the event.
  • Have at least one meaningful conversation about a shared passion or interest, professional or otherwise.
  • Schedule a follow up meeting with at least one person at the event.

Following are links to articles that address other frequently asked questions:

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