News flash: There’s no set formula for landing the perfect job—although it certainly would make my job easier if there were. There are, in fact, many pathways to finding gainful employment in the career field of your choice. We’ve talked about a few of these pathways in recent blog posts, including job fairs, taking temp-to-hire jobs, using LinkedIn, etc.
But at the end of the day, the largest percentage of jobs offers still come through good old-fashioned networking. That saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know” does apply. So it stands to reason that one of the best ways to increase your chances for finding your dream job is by expanding your network and honing your job networking skills.
That said, networking is often easier said than done, and even naturally outgoing people can end up spinning their wheels. So let’s discuss some basic tips to help you refine your job networking skills and put them to better use.
Get Out and Meet People Live
The Internet is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to the job search. On one hand, it does make it very easy to find and apply for jobs, and even to develop an online community. On the other hand, many people fall into the snare of letting it serve as a substitute for getting out and meeting people in person. The Internet and social media can definitely connect you to more people on a surface level—but it’s much harder to let your authentic personality come through. That only happens when you’re actually talking face-to-face with another human. So stop procrastinating and making excuses, and get yourself out to as many job networking events as you can find. If you don’t know where to look for these, sites like Meetup.com and Eventbrite can be good starting points to help you find job networking opportunities.
Hone Your Elevator Pitch
When someone asks the inevitable question, “What do you do?”, what do you tell them? If you simply say, “I’m a real estate agent” or “I’m an architect,” you’re wasting an opportunity to make a lasting impression. (Remember, they aren’t asking who you are; they’re asking what you do.) Your “elevator pitch” is your chance to tell others in a few words exactly what you can do to make people’s lives better. “I help anxious home buyers find the perfect home in the right neighborhood within their budget.” That’s what a real estate agent does. See the difference between that and “I’m a real estate agent?”
I recommend creating a 10-second version and a 30-second version of your elevator pitch. That way, you can follow up when someone shows interest from your 10-second version. Rehearse your pitches in front of the mirror until they become second nature, and practice using them at your next live networking event.
Be a Giver, Not a Taker
When you’re networking—whether in person or online—one of the best ways to nurture your network is to be the one who gives referrals, not just one who asks for them. Don’t just focus on your own needs; be quick to help other people make connections or pass along relevant job leads. It’s just another way of “doing unto others,” and I believe the universe honors it. Besides, by doing these types of favors, you put yourself top-of-mind when that person comes across a job lead for which you’d be a perfect fit.
Have a Game Plan and Strategy
If you’re a naturally outgoing person, networking might feel as natural as breathing; but what if you’re an introvert? What if you freeze up in crowds? Well, here’s some good news for introverts (and a wake-up call for extroverts): Effective job networking isn’t about personality, but about method. Outgoing people might find it easier to talk to others, but without a plan and a strategy, they can easily find themselves meeting lots of people who have no connection with where they want to go career-wise. Likewise, introverts might disqualify themselves on the networking front because of their shyness, but with a basic strategy to guide them, networking becomes much easier.
My point is, be purposeful in your networking. What types of people do you need to meet? Where do those people hang out? Who in your circle would be most likely to connect you to the type of job you want? What should you say to those people? The more prepared and focused you are about your connections and how you should interact with them, the easier and more effective networking becomes.
I’m a firm believer in career networking, and even as a career coach I continue to maintain an active network of my own. If you feel this is an area of weakness for you or if you’d like to get more focused about it, I can help you create a solid strategy for success. For a free 30-minute consultation, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give me a call at 646-320-1126.