The Art of Professional Networking

The Art of Professional Networking

If you’ve been on the job market for any length of time, someone has likely told you why networking is essential. It’s true. The ‘multiplier effect’ of networking during a job search is a powerful tool to have working for you. You tell three people, and each of them tells three people, and so on.

Ultimately, that’s a lot of additional people who know you through networking opportunities. Any one of them might be the link to your next great job offer or provide you with valuable career advice. You might find a mentor who helps you with career development to better position you for a new job. 

If you’re already sold on the value of effective networking, there’s just one more problem. Professional networking and building relationships are not skills taught in school (although they certainly should be). So, it’s fine to accept that you should establish new connections to find that ideal job opportunity, but how do you do it?  

It’s not magic or rocket science. There are just three steps to becoming a successful networker, and the key is to repeat them as often as you can.  

Find Members of Your ‘Tribe’

There are many directions and access points you can pursue to expand your circle of contacts. LinkedIn is a rich source of business networking connections, but I’ll talk more about that in a future blog. Many sectors and fields of work have professional associations and industry groups. If they host meetings, attending those meetings is a great way to meet people in similar careers. Just about every community has a chamber of commerce or board of trade, and these organizations also host regular networking events. While the people you find there will be more diverse in their careers and industries, through them, you never know who may be only one degree of separation away.

Depending on the time you have available, groups like this are often looking for volunteers. Chipping in can be a great way to build deeper relationships with people you meet. Last, don’t overlook people you already know. Your co-workers, friends, and family may also know people who would be valuable connections for you; all you need to do is let them know you’d appreciate those connections.   

Connect with Clarity and Intention

If you’re reaching out to someone to ask for a networking conversation or to share information, try contacting them by phone rather than email. Just about everyone is suffering from email overload, and a phone call offers more of a human touch. Two things are essential the first time you make contact.

First, plan to introduce yourself in a way that’s compelling. Share the most important points about you and why you’re calling, and be brief (less than a minute). Consider using a script to keep yourself on track. Second, be clear about what you’re requesting. I do not recommend asking if they’re hiring. Rather, it’s best to show general interest. You might express an interest in learning more about their company if you’re already in the industry or about the person’s career path. If you’re not in the industry, a conversation to learn how your skills might be transferable is a reasonable request.

If they’re open to connecting, be open to how they prefer to do that. An in-person meeting is excellent, of course, but a phone conversation or video meeting is the next best thing for exchanging information. At the close of every conversation, don’t forget to ask for referrals, whether there’s anyone else with whom they’re willing to connect you who could help you get closer to the goals you expressed earlier.   

Show Gratitude and Focus on Giving

Regardless of the outcome, always say thank you for their time and consideration. If you have their email address, send a note a little later to thank them again and keep your name fresh in their mind. You can also follow up to refresh your request, but not too frequently. You don’t want to become a source of irritation.

A better approach to staying fresh in their mind is to offer value. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help or simply look for ways to do that. As they say, sharing is caring, and you probably have more to share than you think. Share experiences, insights, and resources. Share opportunities and connections. An occasional quick note saying, “I saw this and thought you might find it helpful,” is an excellent way to stay top-of-mind in a positive way.   

If you’re new to networking, give it a try by putting these tips to use. Start by setting a target for the number of people you want to try and connect with next week.

Additional Resources and Networking Tips 

Take a deeper dive into this: The Network Multiplier by AIMatters.com  

How to Build Your Network with a Reply-Worthy Direct Message  

10 Tips on How to Position Yourself in Today’s Job Market