Career Counseling: How to Network Like a Boss

Discussion over coffee

Networking seems like a lost art, but it doesn’t have to be. As many successful job hunters have learned, career counselors can help identify the skills needed to obtain satisfying employment, and help people articulate what satisfying employment means to them. That, of course, is a very different thing than placing a candidate or job seeker in a position.

In my practice, like many career counselors, I focus on helping people learn how to identify options and find rewarding careers and opportunities. I don’t do placement. Recruiting firms, headhunters, and placement agencies do that. Here’s an important point to keep in mind, though: whether you, the job seeker, network to find a job or a recruiter networks to bring you and an employer together, someone is networking to make that match.

Good networking skills are at such a premium that if you choose to use a third party to find employment, that party is probably going to be paid about as much as you are, on a per-hour basis, by the employer that ends up hiring you. Wouldn’t it be nice to learn how to network and negotiate compensation on your own terms?

Here are some pointers and strategies to help turn you into a networking ninja!

  1. Cultivate the mind of a detective and the drive of a sales professional who always closes. The same basic skills apply here. Treat your employment pursuit as you would someone you’ve been crushing on. Stalking a person is a dangerous idea, of course, but the great thing about “stalking” a job is nobody gets creeped out and you don’t need to worry about jealous significant others and restraining orders. What would you want to know about a crush? Where does the crush hang out? Who is the crush close to? What are the crush’s plans for the future? Who can you ask to introduce you? These are questions to ask and pursue about potential employers.
  2. Think in terms of companies, not jobs, and don’t just focus on big companies. Everyone knows about the local universities, grocery stores, and malls. If you were a business major, Fortune 500 companies might be on your list, but most of the time we start smaller. The downside of targeting small companies is they are less visible. They often aren’t even on LinkedIn or online job-listing sites. The nice thing is that many have offices close to you. Obtain a good starting list from your local chamber of commerce. Not all chamber members are small businesses, but many are.
  3. If possible, attend a morning or evening mixer and get to know the people there. Don’t ask everyone you meet for a job. These are the basic questions you should be asking: What’s your name? What company are you with? What do you do there? How can I help you? When someone answers such questions, smile and ask thoughtful follow-up questions that show you are interested. Make it 100% clear that you are interested in helping the person and hearing his or her story.
  4. Ask for things people can actually offer you. Hiring managers can offer you a job, but because they’re typically very busy, it’s rare that you will see one just wandering around at a mixer. The people you meet who you can network with are much more likely to be people who are either in a role similar to the one you want or slightly above it. They can give you information on the company they work for, what their jobs entail, and introduce you to others they work with. They may even be able to arrange an introduction to a boss if you can give them a compelling reason to. Just expecting them to come up with an excuse to put the two of you together in the break room with a couple of defrosted burritos is not the best strategy. Read some industry articles, blogs, and see what’s buzzing on social media. Use that information to ask pertinent questions about areas of concern that you could help with that the boss might be interested in meeting about.
  5. Don’t expect every lead to turn into a job. In job hunting, as in sales, leads rarely result in an immediate payoff, but all connections are valuable. Stay positive and focus on growing your network.
  6. Keep business cards in some sort of organized system. There are online tools for scanning and storing business cards so you don’t have to carry them with you.
  7. Approach every opportunity with an open mind. Every meeting you have with someone brings you closer to a job, but you have no way of knowing which meeting will be the one that makes it a reality. You may have many meetings, and odds are one or two will lead to something. Most meetings might just be opportunities to eat and converse. I love good food and good conversation. I suggest you cultivate a love for these things as well, if you haven’t already.

Enjoy the networking process. These are your people, and you are connecting with them. Some will be future coworkers, friends, bosses, mentors, maybe even dates. (Who knows?) Others will disappear into the sunset, but each meeting is a learning opportunity, and with each one your professional world gets a little bigger.

© Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Amy Armstrong, MS, NCC, MCC, LPC, Career Counseling Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • betsy

    June 2nd, 2015 at 10:32 AM

    I am making this required reading for my husband tonight!

  • Claude

    June 2nd, 2015 at 1:26 PM

    These really are great job tips for someone is actively seeking employment. It has become so much different today, the whole job search thing, that what it used to be. I think that today it is all about who you know and what connections you can make and where. That’s the key to getting a really great job.

  • Tobias

    June 3rd, 2015 at 2:21 PM

    I find that this is difficult for so many of us because it does force us to think a little outside of the box and go beyond what we would typically feel the most comfortable doing. It makes you look at yourself in a new way and almost become something new, but that doesn’t have to only be seen as a a bad thing. This is something that can go toward teaching you a whole lot about yourself and allowing you to reach potential that you may not have even known that you had.

  • Tre

    June 5th, 2015 at 1:57 PM

    You are right -every connection that you make isn’t necessarily going to turn into a job offer right them but who knows what it might bring later down the road? You might make such a good impression on someone that the next time there is something available they may think of you and you might get a job offer when you least expect it.

  • Renee

    June 6th, 2015 at 8:59 AM

    Everyone will naturally have those days where you think that you can’t do this.
    And then you look deep within yourself and realize that of course you can
    Isn’t that such a great feeling?

  • mills

    June 8th, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    You have to know whom you can ask for what if that makes sense. Everyone that you meet can be a good contact for you but that doesn’t mean that everyone will actually have something substantial that they can offer you though. It doesn’t ever hurt to make a great impression on someone that’s for sure, just knowing that you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip. If you make enough of a good impression if they ever get to a point where they do have something that they can offer then they will definitely remember you.

  • Garrett

    June 9th, 2015 at 1:24 PM

    The one thing that I don’t like about this style of networking is that there are times when you feel like people are using you for something else, something that you can give them, and not because they want to be your friend. They want to get close to you because of what they think that you can do for them.

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