The goal of networking is NOT to start asking someone about job opportunities. The goal of networking is to build a relationship with someone.
It takes two things to be successful in your career: 1) doing high quality work; and 2) having positive relationships with the right people. The right people will help you get hired, promoted and introduce you to others who could potentially hire you, as well as give you a continuous supply of job leads, referrals and recommendations.
Whether you’re employed or not, it’s impossible to have a successful career without the support of others. So how can you build strong supportive relationships with others? Here are a few key strategies that can help –
Show an interest in them
Let’s say that you have an upcoming meeting, conference or a professional networking event. Look at the agenda and ask yourself, “Who would I like to meet?” Maybe it’s someone you’ve never met, or maybe it’s someone already in your professional network.
Plan ahead and think about a topic that you think might interest them such as a new product launch in their division, or how you’ve applied one of their teachings that you read about, or perhaps offer them an idea you have on a challenge they are currently facing. The point is to keep the conversation focused on that person (it’s not about you! -at least not yet!)
2. Listen more than you talk
You connect with someone by being genuinely interested in him or her. While you’re establishing relationships, you’ll want to listen more than you talk. This is worth repeating – you need to LISTEN more than you TALK 🙂 So to keep the focus on them, you’ll need to ask some good questions like, “How’s that big project going that you’re working on?” or “How is the new product doing that your company just launched?”
If it’s the first time you’ve ever met, then you don’t need to have a long, in-depth conversation. Instead, when you feel that the conversation has run its course, simply say, “I’d love to stay in touch – do you want to exchange business cards?” Or, “I can send you an article I just read on that very same topic. Would you like me to forward it to you?”
The point is that you want to connect with your contact and do so in a way that is genuine, authentic and shows an interest in what they are doing.
3. Be a resource for them
As a leading Career Coach, I’ve noticed that many professionals make the mistake of sending a message to others that shouts, ” I need a job!!” The message is all about them, and not about the other person. It’s a one-way relationship, instead of a two-way relationship. It’s very selfish. Who wants to be in a relationship like that?
Instead, you want to be sending the message that you’re a successful professional who’s resourceful, well connected, and who has some similar interests as they do. You want them to realize that you are someone that THEY should get to know!
Send out personalized notes and e-mails to your network with links to industry news, reports, case studies, press releases, videos, or cool websites that you think may interest them. Volunteer to write recommendation letters, and introduce them to others in your network. Invite them to business networking events, and introduce them to movers and shakers that you know. Be proactive and offer to connect them to others in your network that may help them solve a problem, offer advice, or potentially advance their career.
One thing that works really well for me, is offering to share my resources, tips, and lessons learned that may help them in some way. I’ve found that doing this provides the foundation for a long-term relationship. Also, one of the key benefits of building a connection and being a key resource to others is that you are more likely to receive career support from them including job leads, personal recommendations and referrals. 🙂
Sherri Thomas is a Career Strategist, international speaker and best-selling author of two books including “Career Smart – 5 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand” which is currently on AMAZON’s TOP 10 LISTfor personal branding books, and “The Bounce Back – personal stories of bouncing back higher and faster from a layoff, re-org or career setback“ also available on AMAZON and BARNES & NOBLE. Right now you can download three FREE CHAPTERS of “The Bounce Back” at http://www.MyBounceBack.com