For many, the word networking elicits thoughts of schmoozing, asking for something, or slick salesmanship. But in reality, networking is defined in the dictionary as “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.” That supportive system is critical to your career management.
As the first step in your networking, have a clear and specific career objective. If you have not decided on one specific career goal, be prepared with a list of viable alternatives. When networking, avoid saying “I am looking for a challenging position that offers growth potential.” Statements such as these do not help the listener figure out how to help you specifically.
Next, define your purpose in networking. Would you like to: learn more about current or future career opportunities, gain constructive feedback, obtain information, get input, have greater visibility, or build a network of colleagues/contacts? Understanding what you need and want helps you know how to manage your connections.
Here are some additional tips to help you be successful in your networking:
-Think about what you have to offer in a networking interaction. By offering something in exchange for your contact’s time and information, you create a mutually beneficial relationship.
Examples could be: provide new ideas, share information, support other’s goals, help, brainstorm, share expertise, offer appreciation, provide research, and share contacts.
-Make a list of 10 people that might be possible networking contacts. Each day work on expanding your list until you have at least 100 people who you can talk to. Avoid feeling overwhelmed by this process, begin small by listing 10 people and then build your list from there. Start with co-workers, colleagues from professional associations, people you are on committees with or taking classes with, people who provide services, etc.
-Consider these places to network: professional meetings, around the office, alumni events, taking a class, volunteering or anywhere you make connections with others.
-Asking for a referral: when your friend refers you to his/her friend, you are no longer viewed as a stranger and the barriers disappear. When contacting referrals your goals are to develop a rapport with the person, learn more about the department, organization, or company in relation to your career goals and obtain information about other departments, companies, or people that may have potential opportunities of interest. Be sure to be brief when providing a summary of your background. Take notes on your discussion for future reference and be sure to follow up with a thank-you note. You will discover that most people are happy to help, but can only do so if you are prepared by asking the right questions.
-Last but not least, always keep in touch with your growing list of contacts and you will see your network blossom!
Here are some networking opening liners for you try:
o Tell me about…
o What is your opinion?
o Who would you suggest?
o How would I…?
o Since we don’t know each other, may I tell you about myself?
o Would you be willing to explain how you made your career change?
And try these suggested closings:
o You know a lot of people in the department/company. Does anyone come to mind who would be a good source of information?
o Do you know of any projects coming up that I may be of help with?
o After I speak with John, I will call and let you know what happened.