I have been following your employment advice over the past few years regarding professional networking. I’m using social media, volunteering in my field, active in the associations, as well as attending as many professional events as possible. Something is wrong. I definitely need to improve. I have met a ton of people in my field, and my tireless efforts have not led to employment.
Please can you give me some suggestions on how to improve my networking.
Signed: Tireless Efforts (TE)
There is a fantastic article on this topic on Forbes. Here are some tips and tricks to improve your networking from the authors, as well as from my own professional insights.
1. Forget that you’re working.
Whether you are introduced to someone at an industry event or you initiated the conversation, engage with people in a professional manner. Talk shop. Talk about the business. Listen. Make sure you know about your business and industry. Learn from the other person about the latest trends. Think about building a new relationship, with give and take.
2. Set goals.
Don’t focus on getting the job. Set small and attainable goals. For example, if you go to an event, set a goal of getting five business cards or set up 2 coffee dates with new contacts for next week, or even just adding two new LinkedIn contacts.
3. Mind your manners.
Don’t straight ask for a job or sound desperate about your job search. Don’t ask for anything from the strangers that you are meeting. Listen more than you talk. Be thoughtful in your interactions and generous with your time. Don’t complain. Be positive, optimistic and upbeat when you are meeting new people. Ask permission to connect with the person on LinkedIn; and ask for the business card. Build relationships before you ask for anything from a network contact.
4. Elevator pitches still matter.
Be prepared to sell yourself in casual way. Don’t be pushy or forceful. Be able to articulate what you do, who you are and why it’s relevant if asked. Practice ahead of time in front of a mirror. Like a resume, elevator pitches need updating.
5. Follow up.
Always follow up with people you meet with a by email. Connect with them on LinkedIn (ask permission – see above). Research the person online and if relevant, follow the companies, join the groups and influencers that they follow on social media. Engage in social media dialogue. Keep in touch by emailing updates and current events that would interest the person.
6. Keep track.
Being organized in key in order to remember who you met, the nature of the activity, and then plan ahead. Google Documents, Google Tools, Jibberjobber and Outlook are some of the online tools you can use.
Even when you find employment, you will need to continue building your professional network at your workplace, and in your industry.