Whether you are networking to find a new job opportunity, gain a promotion, or close a sale, you have two main goals with the networking interaction:
1. To be remembered so that when opportunities appear, people will think of you as the perfect person to handle things,
2. To be referred to others who can give you insight into these opportunities.
Your overall goal of course is to get a job, make a sale, or gain more business -- but it is these two steps that lead really effective net workers to the jobs, careers, and opportunities they want. What effective net workers understand is that they don't need to ask for anything except advice and it is this advice they use to be remembered and to be referred.
Following are ten tips on how to best accomplish these two goals.
1. Act as a "resource person" and not as a "job, promotion, or sale beggar." This means show the other person what benefits you or your product or service bring to the table. Be careful not to create a first impression that you are begging for the job or sale.
2. Enhance your self-confidence. Do this by learning as much as you can about you, your products, and your services. In addition, learn as much as you can about the people from whom you are seeking advice. Preparation is the key to confidence.
3. Make sure to meet with the right people, in the right place, at the right time.
4. Remember you are looking for advice and information not a job or sale. It is the information you collect that will lead you to the job offer(s) or sales that you want to attain.
5. Make sure to budget your time effectively. Have a plan and strategy for your networking activities.
6. Listen and avoid talking. Lead the discussion by asking key questions and let the person share information. This is their time you are taking. Show them courtesy and respect by listening.
7. Constantly widen your network but keep it alive at all times (see follow up below).
8. Lessen your risks to alleviate fear. This is best accomplished by being prepared.
9. To get the most out of your networking interactions make sure to follow this formula:
A. Prepare before the networking interaction
1) Define your goals for the interaction
2) Gather information on the individual and what he or she is about
3) Know the cut off point - if you tell a person you only need 5 minutes then only take 5 minutes
4) Prepare 3 key questions to ask
5) Reflect on how you might be helpful
6) Research the person's company
B. During the networking interaction
1) First 30 seconds
-- Differentiate yourself
-- Get the hook in, gain their interest
-- Introduce yourself slowly (give your name plus one relevant piece of information about yourself that is of interest to the other party)
-- Look for common ground, establish a link
-- Make sure they know who you are
-- Make them the center of attention
-- Show sincere interest in what they have to say
2) During the "body" of the networking interaction
-- Adopt an enthusiastic attitude
-- Ask relevant and thought provoking questions
-- Stay interested in them and what they are saying
-- Actively listen as they speak
-- Repeat key info they may say
-- Take notes (if appropriate)
3) Final 2 minutes of the networking interaction
-- Create a "memory anchor" -- something that will trigger the other person's memory when you contact him/her again.
-- Exchange contact info
-- Jot down some notes
-- Memorize his or her name with his or her face
-- With the other person's permission, set up a follow-up meeting if necessary or appropriate
-- Thank him or her for his or her time
-- Wrap up on key points
10. Follow up after the interview
A. Be ready to reciprocate, i.e., help the other person if possible
B. Follow up on all promises/commitments you made
C. As soon as possible after the interview, jot down key points of the discussion
D. Drop off or send a thank you packet. In no more than 48 hours, follow up with a written thank you note and/or letter. Weave in the personal points of interest the person expressed into the thank note. For example: "You mentioned in our conversation that your daughter Sarah is thinking about majoring in marketing when she attends college this fall. If I can provide her with any advice on how to best leverage her scholastic experience within a marketing program, I will be glad to do so, just let me know."
E. Keep in contact with person. A few weeks later, find an article or other tangible item related to this topic and send it to the person, with an update on how you are doing and that you are still willing to assist the person or her or his colleagues)
Dr. Dan Strakal has been an expert on the changing workplace, job transition, and career development for nearly 20 years. He acts as a trusted client advisor and consultant within the corporate sector, government agencies, civic organizations, small businesses, and educational institutions. He also provides business, executive and career consulting, coaching and workshops for individual clients and is the coauthor of and contributor to two books, Better Job Search in 3 Easy Steps and Better Job Skills in 3 Easy Steps. Dan is often called upon by the national and international media as an expert and has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Self Magazine, SmartMoney.com, Computerworld, Diversity Inc. Magazine, Chief Information Officer (Australia's Magazine for Information Executives), the Radio America Program: News You Can Use, KBS Radio Canada and many other media outlets. He is on the Board of Directors of the Career Planning and Adult Development Network and is a Platinum Member of the Career Masters Institute. More info at http://www.capable-consulting.com