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