It would be great if we could get a job from the safety of our couches, in our pajamas, without having to leave the house. Unfortunately, almost no one actually gets hired from online applications. Networking is still the best way to get your foot in the door. And networking requires both wearing pants—and social skills. Here are five things you absolutely have to do to be one step closer to becoming a networking expert.
Prepare in advance
Have a plan before you walk up to the big fish and try to reel them in. Figure out whom you might have the opportunity to meet at any particular event, then learn as much as you can about them. Figure out what you should emphasize to each, and how best to frame yourself. Practice your pitch. Bring plenty of business cards.
This isn’t the same as selling used cars. You’re not the Avon lady. Most sentient humans will appreciate a little more sincerity. Remember—you don’t have to be in sales mode all the time in every encounter. Try connecting on a personal level first and letting the conversation evolve naturally before you start thrusting your business cards in people’s faces.
As great as it would be to send somebody to network for us, this just doesn’t work. Don’t send a friend or colleague—or your sister—to shake hands with that particular hiring manager if you can’t attend yourself. Send a professionally worded email explaining how much you’d like to meet and see if you can’t find another opportunity instead.
Expand your reach
Don’t play it safe. Your contacts, no matter how many you have, are not enough. It will always be beneficial to keep growing your network and making more connections. You never know when you will need them. Get out there and mingle!
This is perhaps the most important step in the whole process. Whether you send a handwritten note or an email, it’s absolutely crucial to follow up. It shows your interest and your professionalism, and has the added benefit of reminding that connection you exist!