Tips On How To Network

By Maddie Lloyd - Apr. 14, 2021
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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Articles In Life At Work Guide

We all know that well-crafted resumes, cover letters, and a decent list of qualifications are essential when it comes to landing a job, but sometimes having an “in” can get your foot in the door a lot faster. In the world of job searching, sometimes it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.

Here’s the deal:

Making professional contacts and building strategic relationships is a great way to discover job opportunities, build your list of references, and can even help in getting a job offer.

So how do we go about building these relationships? With a little tool called “networking.” Here are 9 steps to help you network and build valuable professional relationships.

1Get Involved in Your Community

A great way to branch out and meet people for your network is to get involved in local community organizations. There’s an endless number of ways you can meet people to help you in your job search, and joining a community organization is one of the easiest and most accessible because they exist right in your neighborhood.

There’s an endless variety of organizations to suit any interest. For example, you could join your school’s local alumni chapter, a political organization, charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity or Planned Parenthood — the hard part will picking which one to donate your time to.

Getting involved is a great way to make a positive impact on your community and to meet people outside of your immediate circle of coworkers, friends, and family.

2Go to Social Events

Don’t let those invites rot away in your inbox! Instead of ignoring them to binge-watch your favorite Netflix original, slap on a happy face and go to those events. They’re great opportunities for networking, and they’ll benefit you in the long run. Plus, you can’t make new connections if you’re never around new people.

Push yourself to accept invites and actually go to social events, particularly if they’re outside of your inner circle. At a party, there’s no pressure to be professional and exchange business information — you’re there to meet people and have fun.

Plus, attending a party or a fundraiser where you know a few people is much less awkward than going to a networking event where you’re surrounded by total strangers.

3Compliment People and Ask Questions

No one ever made any valuable career connections by only talking about themselves. It’s easy to get discouraged (and maybe even a little bitter) when your job hunt isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but just remember to use other people’s success as an opportunity to introduce yourself and network — even if it is a little painful.

When someone you know gets a big break, you should try to meet up with them and compliment them on their success. Even if you see them as your competition, put your petty differences aside. If you want to build a solid network, you’re going to have to encourage others and be supportive of their achievements.

By asking questions, you show that you genuinely care about the other person’s ideas and input and that you’re not just out for a favor. In fact, showing interest might just take you further in establishing a positive relationship than talking about yourself.

Of course, the conversation shouldn’t be only about the other person. But if your conversational partner isn’t socially astute enough to politely turn the conversation toward you, then they probably wouldn’t have been a valuable member of your network anyway.

4Find a Common Interest

Before you go to a networking event, a career fair, or an informational interview, make sure to do some research on the people and companies you’re interested in speaking with. Your goal is to lead the conversation to shared interests so there are never awkward pauses or silence.

Making a personal connection is great for making adding a valuable resource to your network. An easy way to make a solid connection is to find a common interest, whether it be hiking or an affinity for drinking craft beer, it’s a great way to make someone remember you on a personal level.

If you know you’ll be meeting with a specific person, check out their LinkedIn and see if they’ve shared anything recently. Referencing an article or blog post that they commented on (or wrote themselves) can be a great conversation starter.

5Use Social Media to Your Advantage

In our technology-obsessed world, social media is a valuable tool for staying in touch and connecting with others. Whenever you meet people, ask if they’re active on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Afterward, connect with them on these platforms and grow your network.

That’s not all there is to it, though. You can also network online, completely virtually. Figure out thought-leaders in your field and/or industry, or even people who seem to regularly engage with their LinkedIn page, and try sending a private message with a definite topic of conversation in mind (and a compliment or two about their work never hurts).

There are also virtual career fairs out there — what better way to expand your career potential than from the comfort of your living room?

6Practice Your Elevator Pitch

One of the biggest networking essentials to always have at the ready is your awesome elevator pitch. Your elevator pitch is a 30-second speech that summarizes who you are, what you do, and why you’re interested in talking to whoever you’re talking to.

The idea is that you should be able to share this information in the time that it takes to ride the elevator.

Being clear about your employment goal is a key aspect of successful networking. Prepare some talking points and practice discussing them, from your career goals to your employment history. You never know when a networking opportunity will pop up.

Of course, don’t just memorize a set script and call deliver the same spiel to every person you meet. There are likely key elements that will stay the same no matter who you’re talking to, but it’s important to distinguish between different people you meet and what role they could have in helping you, and vice versa.

Make sure to adjust your pitch based on what you hope to get out of the conversation, but remember — if you’re giving an elevator pitch, you’re likely meeting this person for the first time, so keep your “ask” low-pressure and easy to do (like getting an email address to set up a future discussion).

7Keep Track of Everyone You Meet

Make sure to keep a detailed record of your networking activity to use for future reference, and also to keep track of who’s who so you don’t get anyone confused. Take note of the following questions:

  • Who did you did talk to?

  • What did you talk about?

  • What came of the conversation? A job lead, a referral, or simply a new connection?

For each of your new connections, figure out the next steps for maintaining your relationship and how you’re going to follow up. You can do this with index cards, a notebook, or a document on your computer.

And with that in mind…

8Follow Up and Say Thank You

Whenever you make make a valuable connection, make sure to send a thank-you letter for helping you, follow up on job leads, or just thank them for taking the time to speak with you.

To get the most from your conversations and maintain your professional relationships, you should always make the effort to show your gratitude in a thank-you email or a handwritten letter. Whatever gets the job done.

Be sure to reference a memorable part of your conversation, especially if this is someone you met at a networking event with hundreds of people.

9Make Yourself a Resource for Others

And finally, another important aspect of networking is to make yourself a resource for other job seekers. Offer advice when you can, refer others to job leads in their field, and always be a source of support. You’re in this together, after all.

The thing about networking is that it’s rarely a one-to-one, quid pro quo kind of deal where you do for someone and then they do for you. It’s more of a “pay it forward” situation. You’re going to get a lot of help in your career, and sometimes you’ll be able to return the favor directly to the person who helped you.

But a lot of the time, you’ll just have to do a good deed for the next generation of job-seekers to set your karma straight.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to finding a job, sometimes it’s all about who you know. Job leads can come from anywhere, and you never know who could be a valuable resource for you in the future.

Make sure to brush up on your social skills, get involved in your community, and support other people in your network and you’re sure to land the job of your dreams.

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Maddie Lloyd

Author

Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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