By Sabina Trench, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers Westport
Networking gets a bad rap. The very term conjures up images of forced camaraderie in an atmosphere of air-kissing falsity that yields very little by way of value. And I’m sure much of it ends up being every bit as empty as I’ve described.
But it needn’t be.
Many jobs are filled by word of mouth and referrals. Just as people buy off people, people refer people. Many people can’t resist helping out when invited to do so: but before you can ask someone to refer you for a job, they’ve got to get to know you.
They needn’t become your soul sister but they must have some sense of you. In every city and county there are networks that job-searches should look at tapping into purely to meet people who are out there having a go – depending on the network, you may meet start-up entrepreneurs, established businesspeople, or people in transition between one career and another.
Here are some tips for job-seeker networking provided by Career Directors International.
- Take small bites.
If the thought of walking into a room full of people is overwhelming, try to network in a more comfortable atmosphere. Discuss your skills and accomplishments with friends, family, and members of your community. Ask if they can connect you to others who can help you acquire the information you need.
- Buddy with someone who is comfortable networking.
Find a partner who is more outgoing than you. Invite them to a networking event and follow their lead, but don’t cling to them all evening. When you’re ready, branch out on your own and make plans to ‘check in’ periodically throughout the event.
At the end of the event share information about the contacts you met with your buddy to maximise the value of the event.
- Practice your pitch.
You can improve your comfort level with networking dramatically by practicing ahead of time. Think through a brief statement about yourself that communicates your unique skills and value added. Don’t talk about the tasks and don’t just give your name, rank, and serial number. Be bold and discuss how you solve your clients’ problems.
- Read books and articles on networking.
Arm yourself with the latest information on the topic. Highlight concepts, themes, and scripts that can help you prepare and be comfortable with your networking skills.
- Take a public speaking class.
Join a group that allows you to practice your public speaking skills in a supportive, non-threatening environment. Groups such as Toastmasters International offer a variety of meetings and venues to practice these skills. You can find clubs at www.toastmasters.org.
To these, I would add the importance of carefully-planned follow-ups. Pop an email or phone call on the key people you connected with at the networking event.
Don’t pester. Know what you’re going to say or write, and get in and get out without taking up too much of the other person’s time. They may be favourably disposed to the idea of helping you, but they don’t want to hear about all your setbacks.
And, most of all, they need to get a sense of optimism from you. Sign and moan down the phone, and you’ll be on their blacklist. Remember, these are not lifelong buddies, these are strategic contacts, and interact with them accordingly.
Sabina Trench is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers and works out of Westport, Co. Mayo. You can read more about her, and make a booking HERE for CV Preparation and Interview Training.
More articles from her blog can be accessed HERE