Networking with style
The days of looking for posted job openings and then sending out resumés are rapidly falling by the wayside, according to a 2013 Jobvite hiring survey. It found that 94 percent of job recruiters use social networking to search for candidates, and 78 percent of those recruiters have hired based on that approach.
“Networking really has to be a way of life now,” says Eleanor Augur, MA, a career coach with Phoenix Career Services™. “But don’t go about it the wrong way. Walking up to people and blurting out, ‘Help me find a job!’ is annoying.” Here, Augur explains how to network like a pro:
If you’re new to networking, Augur suggests starting with family and friends. “What does your brother, sister or parent do for a living? Sit down and talk to them about their careers,” she says, noting it’s a good way to practice networking skills in a nonthreatening environment.
Use the LinkedIn network.
“Don’t just slap up your LinkedIn® profile and forget about it,” Augur advises. “Join discussion groups, post status updates about what you’re doing, include job-skill keywords and ask lots of questions.” This helps you get comfortable with online networking while building name recognition, she says, and can showcase your knowledge and initiative to recruiters trolling the site.
Get an introduction.
You should never approach someone you don’t know without being properly introduced first, Augur says. “If you want to get an ‘in’ at a certain company, you need a referral — either from someone who works there now or in the past,” she says.
While the LinkedIn site can help you find potential company connections, Augur also recommends joining professional organizations and attending local networking events where you’re likely to meet people from top employers. “I recommend sites like Meetup and 99events, both of which I’ve used in my own job searches,” she says. “You can search for events by career keyword and location.”
Offer something of value.
Don’t expect favors if you aren’t giving something in return, Augur says.
“People are attracted to information,” she explains. “Post an informative article you read recently, or ask an open-ended question about current events to help start a dialogue — especially if you have some specialized knowledge to share.” This makes it easier to connect with others and gives them a reason to remember you, she says.
Publicly complaining about your job search is a major turnoff, according to Augur. “It makes you look pathetic,” she emphasizes. Even if you’re having trouble finding a job, leave the negativity at home when networking.
Instead, focus on how you’re growing and developing your skills. “Maybe you’re taking a class during your down time and you learned something new you can share with others,” Augur suggests.
Augur’s biggest networking pet peeve is people asking her questions and then talking over her.
“Don’t ever do that,” she says. “Successful people like to talk about themselves, and you need to hear what they say. Be willing to discuss their ideas with them, instead of going off on tangents or wondering how it can benefit you.” If you show genuine interest in people, they are far more likely to help you along your career path, she says.
Dress for success.
“If you aren’t sure what to wear [to an event], scope out the place ahead of time to check out what everyone else is wearing,” Augur says, noting that your attire should be slightly more conservative than what a company’s current employees are wearing. “But don’t overdo it, like wearing a three-piece suit when everyone else is business casual.”
Say thank you.
Not showing gratitude is a surefire way to burn bridges on your networking journey, Augur cautions. “But small gestures make a big difference, like a handwritten note or a Starbucks® gift card to show your appreciation to anyone who helps you,” she says. “Don’t be afraid of the networking process — the more you do it, the more knowledgeable you’ll become.”
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