HOW TO NETWORK
If you are just starting out in your career, it can be a bit intimidating to network. You may feel like you do not have sufficient professional experience to feel comfortable asking others about possible job leads. Or maybe you even feel uncomfortable about your motivations in asking other people for help?
Here are some tips that will help make networking an easier and more productive experience.
START WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Remember how you tried out that school speech on your parents and your friends before you did it in front of the class? Think of what you would like to say to people you plan to network with and try it out on your family. Ask them for pointers on what you said or did that was effective or might need some work.
When you feel more comfortable, start talking to people friends recommend as helpful to your job search, then expand to others with whom you have no previous connection.
REMEMBER YOUR MOTIVATION
As with informational interviews, the process of networking involves you learning more so that you can advance in your job search. Never forget: you are not asking for a job! Keeping that in the back of your mind should help subdue some of your anxiety.
Just think of networking as a way of meeting new people. This can be a little intimidating for shy individuals, but just remember that these encounters are very low stakes. Even if your meeting does not provide an immediate lead, you might still make a connection with a person that could prove valuable in future.
Some people experience guilt in such a situation, feeling that they are essentially using someone. The truth is that most people are very open to helping others and get a sense of satisfaction when they are able to do that. If the person you are talking with mentions an area where you might be able to assist them, do not hesitate to give them advice or share your own contacts. You never know what good things might come of this gesture.
DON'T BE DISCOURAGED
Occasionally people will not have time to meet with you or may not return your email or phone calls. This does not mean you are not worth their time. Remember those days when you are so busy that some things just had to wait? Everyone experiences this.
If the individual does not get back to you in a reasonable amount of time, contact them again. You can say that you are just making sure they received your message and that there is no problem if they have not had a chance to respond. Ultimately, there will be a few people who do not get back to you. Simply cross them off your list and move on to someone else.
At networking events, it can sometimes be difficult to get more than a few minutes with someone. If you feel a conversation has been promising, ask for the person’s contact information and whether they would be willing to meet with you again in the near future. Some promising people turn out to be dead ends, but that is a normal part of the process.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Like virtually everything in life, the more you network, the better you get at it. You learn from your networking experiences what works best when having employment conversations. These lessons will allow you to seem more confident, prepared, and articulate in both job interviews and other professional interactions.