We all know that networking is a key component of the job search and its success. It helps us connect with people in our industry that can open the gates for a potential job offer. Therefore, it’s important to take networking seriously during the job search. Many people may think it’s done just by setting up their LinkedIn profile, while others may go to a networking event and make small talk with a couple of people. The key to having good networking skills is to have good communication skills in order to make lasting relationships.
The truth is, everyone has networked before without even realizing it. It could be that you still keep in contact with your coworkers from your previous job or that you keep in touch with a friend who is in your industry. One thing you can do to improve your networking skills is to build upon the connections you already have. Perhaps shoot an email to a former coworker and ask them how things are going, but don’t ask them about job openings at the start.
You can also expand your network by going to networking events or conferences. Doing person-to-person networking instead of relying on social media tools like Twitter and Facebook will help you form better and longer lasting connections with professionals in your field. This is because when you meet a person face-to-face you are offered the chance to make a lasting impression and show off your communication skills, whereas a tweet or email limits the communication.
Before going to the network event you must do some research on the person you want to connect with and should prepare an elevator speech. An elevator speech is your short, 30-second introduction that tells the person you’re meeting who you are, what your skills are and what kind of job you’re looking for. For an elevator speech, your communication skills need to be on point. Once you have perfected your elevator speech, and have gained insight as to who you are going to meet, you will be ready for your networking event.
Once at the event, it’s important to be proactive. This means that you shouldn’t stand around and wait for people to come to you. Instead, strengthen your networking skills by utilizing your communication skills. Be social at the event and go out of your way to meet new faces. This may come as a challenge for people who are shy, but meeting and connecting with people isn’t as bad or hard as it sounds. A key component to having a lasting networking contact is to listen to what they have to say. Listening is a key communication skill that is often overlooked. Be a good listener and listen to what they have to say in order to give a thoughtful response and good conversation.
Finally, you haven’t really networked if you don’t follow-up. This is why it’s important to ask for business cards from every person you meet at the event and to pass out your own. Don’t expect people to contact you first. You need to make the first move towards establishing a long lasting connection. Call your contacts the next week or email them to continue your relationship.
What are some ways you improve upon your networking and communication skills? Share with us in the comments section below!
IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by sjcockell