The term "networking" does not have to convey forced conversations and social climbing. Make it your own authentic process, enjoy it and it will be your new best friend. These are 15 pieces of advice when it comes to building your network and landing a job you'll love.
- Keep track: Keep a spreadsheet with contact info for everyone in your career network with details of when you met, who referred you to them, whether you’ve reached out to them, what they do, etc. It’s also a good idea to keep separate lists of companies and organizations of interest, with contacts at each if you have one, and resources to use during the job search.
- Keep up on your industry: Particularly if you are entering a new field, read, read read. Sign up for all relevant email alerts and newsletters so that you don’t miss a beat. You need to understand the dynamics of the field you are working in and this can help you figure out your place in it.
- Develop expertise: More than just basic knowledge, become an expert in your specific area of interest. Potential employers always want to see that you really care about something and will be able to become just such an expert on their issues. Blogging is a good way to ensure you are on top of happenings and researching topics of interest.
- Attend events: Get in the loop on all relevant networking opportunities and go!
- Practice proactive introductions: Take the lead and introduce yourself in any networking situation. Often you have to risk feeling awkward in order to connect with someone at a company you admire. When introducing yourself, always open with a compliment or other statement of genuine appreciation acknowledging you know of their work and/or company. People are much more likely to open up to this sort of welcoming introduction.
- Understand that anyone can be a great connection, regardless of title: A lower level professional can be just as (if not more) valuable a contact than the CEO. While it feels good to leave an event having spoken with the most important person in the room, other people in that room may turn out to be much more useful contacts down the road, contacts who will have time to help you out and share their wisdom.
- Make business cards even if you are unemployed: It feels good to have something to hand out. People will be more likely to remember you, not to mention reach out. If you’re in the enviro-scene, make your own cards. A business card handwritten on recycled card stock tends to be tremendously charming and authentic.
- Follow-up! Develop and practice post event etiquette: Write details of everyone you meet on their cards so you won’t forget who they are, what you talked about, etc. Then enter their basic info into your spreadsheet. Try to send emails to as many contacts as you can saying that it was great to meet them, and including a reminder of what you discussed, in case they forgot already, and suggesting a follow-up meeting or conversation where appropriate. At the least, remind them of what you are interested in and request they keep you in mind. It is also a nice gesture to send something helpful, such as a link to an article you brought up in conversation, a useful website you recommended.
- Give introductions and resources: In a networking situation, we all have capital or many things to offer. Know what those assets are. When talking to someone you hope they will direct you to a job lead or informational resource, try to do the same for them. Always be thinking, “who or what do I know that aligns with this person’s interests and aspirations that I could connect them with”. And then be reliable about making email introductions. This is an easy favor that will come back to you. Resources, such as websites and blogs, can also be valuable to share. Make a list of your top favorite blogs or websites or job boards and share it. Or if you have another form of capital to share, do so.
- Engage everyone you know: When looking for a job, send a mass email to a targeted group of friends and family stating that you are looking for and asking for ideas, referrals, company names, anything. You never know who will have leads. Caution: Choose your favors wisely. If you blast your network with requests daily, this may not be as fruitful.
- Ask for referrals and introductions: When meeting people for informational interviews, always ask for referrals to others who would be of help. Networking should be a never-ending game, where leads lead to more leads.
- Express genuine interest - ask questions and do your research: When you are meeting with someone new, do research beforehand so you have an idea of what they do and can speak intelligently about their company. That said, ask genuinely interested and thoughtful questions, which can be helpful to prepare beforehand. People usually love to talk about their work and love when people are interested in hearing about it.
- Invest in your resume, bio, and job desires: When being introduced to others, it is essential to have an updated resume on hand to share. More than that, a bio can be especially helpful when you are networking with people who do not have jobs to give you, but have friends who may have jobs to give you. It is a less formal way of sharing your background in advance of a meeting that does not signal “I want a job” but instead “I want you to know a little bit about me.” It is also helpful to have an email prepared describing what you are looking for, with a list of job titles and industries you are looking at, as well as sample target companies.
- Get specific: Career counselors have recommended creating a list of your top target companies and sending this into your network to see if anyone knows anyone at any of them.
- Keep in touch with your network: This is perhaps the hardest, but most important tip. Keep your network fresh. You don’t need to spend all day emailing people individually, but keep your contacts in mind and share pertinent articles, websites, referrals and other information, as well as finding other creative ways to keep your relationships alive.
Adapted from SustainLane