Networking is never easy, but it is necessary in the current job market because so many jobs will never be posted on a job board or company website. To find these hidden opportunities, you will need to network.
Step 1: Set achievable goals.
Who do you want to meet and what do you want to achieve through those contacts? If you don’t have an idea of the who and the what, then your networking efforts are not very effective.
Identify people in the field or industry that interests you. These may be people in companies that you would like to work for or it might be people who have the type of job you want. Either way, you must be focused to achieve your goals.
Step 2: Friends first!
Identify friends who are willing to practice networking with you. Make the same type of phone call that you would make to a networking contact. Set up a lunch or coffee meeting and ask questions focused on their career path.
Once you are comfortable with the networking conversation, ask your friends for referrals. These contacts can be additional practice or actual networking contacts you want to pursue.
Step 3: Force yourself to meet new people.
Networking is hard work, even for people who are energized by interactions with others, so step out of your comfort zone and meet new people. Attend specific networking events, gain referrals from contacts and friends, or join professional organizations.
Try many different ways to meet new people and then identify what works best for you. Set achievable goals! Don’t walk into a room full of strangers and expect to meet everyone. Set a goal of spending at least 5 minutes talking to each of four people. You may talk longer if you find someone easy to talk to, but be sure to move on and meet others to achieve your goal.
Meet new people, exchange business cards, and then leave when you achieve the numerical goal. As you become more adept at networking with strangers, you can set a quality goal that surpasses your quantifiable goal. Remember, in networking the quality of the contact is more important than the number of business cards you collect.
Step 4: Follow up with your new contacts.
After a networking opportunity, send an email to thank your new. Also, consider phoning the new contact to set up a one-on-one meeting.
Whatever format you choose for the follow up, be sure that you are deepening and strengthening the networking relationship. Offer to help them with information, contacts, and introductions as they have helped you.