There are many skills that you need to land that next job – education, experience, attitude, gumption. With the advent of social and business networking sites and online professional associations, it’s important to spend time on another increasingly crucial skill – networking. Not that networking skills haven’t been important before, but online networking can make or break job opportunities in the click of a mouse button. Take stock of the networking skills below to help you get that next job:
Determine Your Contacts
The best place to start networking is to figure out the people you already know. The obvious choices are your current colleagues, then former colleagues and managers, any recruiters you have talked to on a regular basis, and those in the professional organizations or groups to which you belong. Make sure you include those that aren’t quite as obvious – perhaps friends, family, and neighbors in related industries or positions, former professors or seminar leaders, students from any of your current or previous courses you took. Make the list as long as possible as you can always whittle it down into a more practical list later.
Create New Contacts
You will have a greater chance of networking your way to a new job by creating new contacts too. Join some new business networking sites, visit a monthly meeting of an industry associations, attend a conference armed with your business card, chat with new recruiters. Being visible is one of the networking skills that can help you see new opportunities.
This skill combines points one and two. Once you have met people, you need to build relationships with them. How can you do that? Learn to listen to your contacts and ask questions. Apply the principle of common courtesy. Participate in discussions. Make people remember you in a way that is both friendly and professional. Don’t ask your contacts if they know of a job opening. The answer is either yes or no to that question, and more often than not it will be “no.” Instead, just make people aware of your search and your targets and ask them if they know of someone it would be helpful for you to speak with–for example, someone who works in the industry you are targeting or the company that you wish to work for. If the answer is yes, ask for a referral or introduction. But don’t always be “on” while you are interacting with people in your network – sometimes a conversation is just a conversation and your real goal, throughout, should simply be to extend your network and build sincere relationships.
Know When to Fold ‘em
Though this point seems to contradict the previous one, remember: it’s not all about you. People can detect the difference between being friendly and wanting something. While everyone could be a potential networking opportunity, not everyone wants to be that. Through body language, tone, and words, you need to learn to recognize when people just want to have a conversation.
People appreciate courtesy – especially since it doesn’t seem to occur as often as it used to. Taking time to thank someone for a lead, a referral, or a recommendation will help people remember you for your thoughtfulness. And make it a real thank you, such as a handwritten letter or a call at a later time – some aspects of “old-fashioned” will always be in style.
Return the Favor
While you are out networking, so are others. And probably some of them will be hoping that their networking skills will land them their next big job too. When you can, return the favor. What goes around can also come around.
Networking takes time and energy, but it can also be fun. Your networking skills can be applied to any facet of your life, and in the business world, that can help you land that next job.