Networking is often a very successful way to find employment and is frequently a great source of support for growth in your career. A well-developed network of contacts can help you navigate far more than just career changes. Networks are typically made up of friends, family, neighbors, college alumni, people in associations, current and former coworkers, bosses, and associates.
The growth of formal networking sites is well documented. Linked In and My Space have been discussed in every media outlet for the last few years. But reliance only on email networking is dangerous. You would be surprised by the number of people you know and the people they know. Pick up the phone and talk with your network. Ask for referrals to the people they know that can educate you on opportunities or industries that most interest you.
Becoming a networking expert is about overcoming the fear of asking for help. It takes practice and comes easier to some than to others. Read up on the topic. The Web and your local library are filled with great sources of information on networking. There is even a Networking for Dummies book available on the topic.
Email is a perfectly acceptable way to network but should not be your only focus. When using email to network, keep your message brief and to the point, and be sure to check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Look at events as networking opportunities. Social gatherings can be used to network if you come prepared to ask good questions, learn, and explain specifically how others might support your continued search for information and contacts. School events, parties, and social gatherings of any kind are opportunities to network.
Most networking is informal in nature but formal networking might be valuable to your search. Look into business social or association meetings. Most participants are glad to exchange business cards and may have goals similar to yours. Join listservs and blogs on the net. Perhaps your alma mater has an alumni association in your area.
1. When you set up a formal networking appointment, do a formal interview.
2. Always ask for a list of other potential contacts from each networking interview.
3. Be ready to speak positively of your accomplishments and skills.
4. Take good notes.
5. Follow up with professional courtesy, such as thank you letters, etc.
6. Don’t let your network go cold just because you have met a short-term need. Keep it active.