For some job seekers, networking can be a very scary prospect. The thought of speaking to strangers to learn about their companies and their careers can cause some to grow faint. Networking is so critical to job search and career success that it is important to face those fears.
Start with the Low Hanging Fruit. Reaching out to a stranger can be very intimidating. Review your target list companies and identify friends, family members, neighbors, and former colleagues who work there. Start your networking with people you know and build your confidence with the process. As you gain confidence with the process, it becomes easier to reach out beyond your comfort zone. Most job seekers are surprised how many contacts they can identify to provide a safe starting point.
Leverage Your Alumni Network. Before reaching out randomly to a variety of ghosts and goblins, review your alumni network for contacts in your target companies. Most alumni are willing to share a few minutes with a fellow alum. Most alumni networks are a challenge to maintain so look for alumni on LinkedIn. Use your shared connection to your alma mater to establish a connection. When you start with something in common, it is easier to have a conversation.
More Listening Than Talking. Be well prepared with thoughtful, insightful questions to keep your contact talking so you can spend most of the meeting listening and taking notes. Being well prepared based on your research, makes the meeting much easier and demonstrates your interest.
Reframe Your Thinking. This is not “trick or treat” networking where you knock on a random door to see what surprise you receive. Do not think of networking as asking for a job or selling yourself – it is not. Focus on gathering information about industries, companies and roles that interest you.
Be Prepared to Share Information About Yourself. Anticipate that you will be asked a bit about yourself and be prepared. Decide in advance what you are comfortable sharing. Practice your value proposition.
Take Deep Breaths. Don’t hyperventilate but do take a few deep breaths will help you relax. It is ok to breathe as you prepare to ask the next question. A few deep breaths will help you relax and focus on the conversation.
Be Yourself. Forget the masks and costumes. You do not have to pretend to be extroverted in your networking meetings to succeed. Be yourself but strive to be a well-prepared self. Preparation helps to increase your confidence.
Celebrate Your Success. After your meeting, review your notes and consider what you have learned. Congratulate yourself on the information you gathered and the connection you established. Approach your networking one meeting at a time. Don’t paralyze yourself with a long list of contacts. Plan one meeting a time to keep the process manageable and to build your confidence.
Always Say Thank You. Remember to follow up with a handwritten thank you note to your contact to show your appreciate for their time and their insights. Make it easy for them to remember you but providing timely and professional feedback.
Leave the haunting to Halloween night. Put your fears aside and enjoy your fall networking. It will enhance your success. Don’t be surprised if you come to enjoy the process. It can be so interesting to learn about industries, companies and roles that you start to worry less about the process. You may find yourself energized by the interesting people you meet.