Now, you’re probably thinking, “What is she talking about? I need a job ASAP. It’s the only reason I’m networking!”
So, here are six easy steps that make networking more effective and fun by focusing on others:
1. Listen and Be Present
One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is not listening. Not long ago, I was at an event where I networked with a man who talked nonstop about himself for 10 minutes. He didn’t try to get to know me; he only asked questions to get free career advice. I knew that his lack of listening skills would hamper his job search.
The next time you're networking, listen carefully to the person you’re chatting with, whether or not he can help you with your job search. Instead of worrying about what he can do for you, simply be present, and hear what he has to say. You’ll notice how relaxing it is to turn your attention away from yourself and focus on the other person.
After your networking partner finishes talking, use active listening to reflect back what you heard.
2. Ask a Question to Learn More
After your partner introduces herself, ask her a meaningful question to learn more about her job search and career goals, such as:
“What do you enjoy most about your line of work?”
“What type of company do you see yourself joining next?”
“What do you hope to accomplish at this networking event?”
“What types of job-search activities have you found to be most effective?”
“Where types of challenges do you need help overcoming in your job search?”
These types of questions show her that you're interested in knowing more about her, and they also help you learn what you have in common with each other.
3. Be Generous
If you can help your networking partner in any way, offer to do so. For example, if you know someone who works at your partner's top targeted company, offer to introduce them to each other.
If you’re not sure how you can help, say, “I’m wondering how I can help you in your job search,” or ask, “What types of challenges are you experiencing in your job search that you can use help with?”
You'll be surprised how good it feels to help a fellow job seeker, and your partner will appreciate your efforts.
4. Follow Up Immediately
Networking rule number one is that when you offer to do something for someone, do it right away. If you told your partner that you would forward his resume to your manager, for example, do it as soon as you receive the resume. Not only is this good networking etiquette but it also demonstrates your sincerity and integrity.
Fast followup also includes checking your LinkedIn account at least once a day and accepting invitations to connect right away.
5. Thank Everyone
If your networking partner tries to help you, whether or not it aids your job search, thank her. It's surprising how often the people I offer to assist (by forwarding job postings or other leads) don’t acknowledge my efforts at all. Remember that you're thanking them for their generosity, and be flattered that they're keeping you in mind.
6. Be Open to Making Friends
One of the side benefits of networking is that it can be a great way to make friends. I've made several close pals through networking, supporting each other through our job searches and remaining friends afterward. Your unemployment will be temporary, but your friends will be there for you for a long time.
Focus on Others at Your Next Networking Event
The next time you network, practice focusing on your networking partner rather than yourself. You’ll feel less stressed and more at ease, and networking won't seem like a chore. You’ll be doing something beneficial for someone else, and that will make you feel good, too. And when you land that job, it will be that much sweeter for having enjoyed the process of getting there.