I’m often asked if networking is really necessary in the job search. The answer is “only if you hope to be successful.” Networking is the reality of the current job market. It is rare that sitting behind your computer sending multiple online applications per day yields the desired results. Networking is a critical component of a successful job search.
What if the job seeker is shy or uncomfortable with networking? Here are some tips to ease reluctant networkers into a successful process.
Start with Low Hanging Fruit – Do not start with a cold call to a senior level contact at your dream company. That is much too stressful and could cause a shy person to swear off networking for life. Think about your circle of friends and family. Do any of them work at companies that interest you? Who do they know that they could introduce you to? What about former work colleagues who have moved on to new companies? What about colleagues from school? Starting with people you know enables you to build your confidence and skills as you conduct information interviews. With each interview you are learning about different companies, roles and career paths while you hone your technique and build your skills. Remember to ask each contact who else you should be talking to given your specific goals and interests.
Be realistic – While it is important to put your best foot forward, you are not interviewing for your dream job. Be prepared to gather information and learn while you share your story. You are not asking for a job, you are asking for information. Most people enjoy talking about what they do so be a good listener and ask probing questions to gain the insights you desire.
Attend Events with a Buddy – Walking in a room full of people networking can be a bit intimidating. Consider attending professional association meetings and events or alumni networking events with a buddy. Encourage each other to make new connections and have relevant conversations. Do not spend the evening talking to each other. See how many people you can meet and collect cards for follow-up.
Prepare for Success – Being prepared for your information interviews will enable you to be more confident. Research the company website in advance. Identify questions you hope to ask prior to your meeting. Preparation enables you to have a more meaningful discussion, helps you make a positive, professional impression and helps you reap more value from the meeting.
Build a Plan – Just talking about networking doesn’t make it happen and provides no results. Define a plan and hold yourself accountable. Start with an achievable goal – maybe one informational interview per week. After a few weeks of achieving that, push to goal to two and keep moving. Track your progress and reward yourself for meeting your goals.
Celebrate Success – After a successful informational interview with a networking contact, take a few minutes to reflect on what you learned. Capture some key notes for future reference. Think about what you did well. If there was an awkward moment, think what you could do differently next time. Reflect and learn from the experience. Send a thank you note to your contact to show them you valued their time and insight. Take a walk or do something you enjoy to celebrate your successful meeting and your achievement of your goal.