7 Rules of Networking
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of all jobs in the United States are found through networking. Because networking is the most effective method to find work, executing this skill properly is critical. Whether you make a contact through social media, cold calling, or just reaching out to acquaintances, follow these guidelines to make sure your networking efforts yield positive results and help you land your next job.
1. Know Why You Are Contacting a Person
Once you've identified a list of people you would like to contact, determine what you hope to gain from reaching out to them. Here are some ideas of information you can learn.
- If your contact is a potential employer, you might be interested to know more about his or her company or if there are any openings there that you could apply for.
- With friends and acquaintances, it's a good idea to prepare a networking profile beforehand that will help you communicate your skills and goals.
- With contacts who work in your industry, you might ask about how to be a competitive candidate and what companies you should look into.
- If the person is in a position similar to one you would like, you might ask for personal coaching or tips on how to improve your résumé.
- If he or she works for a company you are interested in, you may ask about the employer’s needs and challenges, how to best apply to open positions, and how to fit in with the company culture.
- Even if your contact doesn't fit any of the above situations, he or she is still a valuable resource to reach out to. Let them know what you're looking for, and then ask if he or she knows anyone that can help you learn of new opportunities.
- With everyone you contact, it’s always a good idea to ask if they know of any job openings you would be interested in.
2. Make a powerful impression
As you contact the individuals on your networking list, it is important to think through what you are going to say beforehand. What do you want them to come away from the conversation knowing about you? The best way to accomplish your purpose is to cater your “Me in 30 Seconds” statement and power statements to correspond with your objectives with this networking contact. While you may be tempted to be casual in your conversations with networking contacts, even close friends and acquaintances will appreciate your preparation, brevity, focus, and convincing communication. As you communicate your skills and goals clearly, your contacts will be better able to connect you with key referrals.
3. Learn something from every contact
Your contacts have a wealth of knowledge for you to tap into. Learn from their professional experiences, and ask key questions that will help you move forward with your career path. If they work for a company or in an industry that you are interested in, don't be afraid to ask specific questions about the work environment at their company and what some of their business challenges are. Use it as an opportunity to find out how your skills can meet the company's needs. You may even learn that the company isn't a good fit for you. Each networking interaction you have should help you discover new opportunities or rule out opportunities that don't fit your goals.
4. Get two referrals from every contact
Strive to get two new referrals during each networking conversation; this will ensure that you cast your net as broadly as possible. Some questions you can ask are: “Who can you recommend that may be helpful in my job search?” and, “Who else do you know that I should be talking to?” If you have acted professionally so far, most contacts will not think that this is a bother and would be happy to refer you to someone who could help you.
5. Contact every new referral you receive
You never know what another person has to offer until you ask them. Even people who might not have an obvious connection to your job search could be important links to others who are. It's also good to remember that it can leave a negative impression if you do not contact a referral from someone in your network. Not only will the person who referred you be hesitant to give you referrals again, but the referral may also be less likely to help if you reach out to him or her in the future.
6. Write thank-you letters to every person you contact
Gratitude is a powerful virtue. Certainly the acts of kindness shown to you in your job search are worth expressing thanks for. Sending a note, email, or text to your networking contacts thanking them for their time, attention, input, and referrals creates goodwill and leaves them with a positive impression of you. It is also an opportunity to further express your skills and interest with the contact.
7. Keep an accurate list of follow-up activities
As you network you will gain a lot of information and new relationships, and these will spur a lot of additional follow-up activities, such as making phone calls, sending résumés, and writing thank-you notes. Take care to organize these activities well so that you don't let any opportunities fall through the cracks. Use a form, spreadsheet, email folder, or calendar system to keep track of contacting calls. You’ll want to remember:
- Who you contacted
- How you know them/Who referred you
- When your contact took place
- What you discussed
- What actions you need to take
- When you will complete those actions
Being effective and efficient will leave you more energy for your job search, and your contacts will appreciate it as you respond and communicate in a timely manner.
Following these networking rules will ensure that you take advantage of one of the most powerful methods for finding work quickly. As you incorporate these guidelines, networking will become easier, natural, and intuitive; and pretty soon you will be networking like a pro!