The fact is that networking CAN be a valuable tool for your job search – IF it is done correctly.
Quality networking takes time
First and foremost, social media is a very viable tool for genuine networking. Personally, I work with clients from across the United States and abroad, and a significant number of them came from my presence on LinkedIn.
However, you can’t just send send a LinkedIn invitation to someone and then expect them to do favors for you, like passing your resume on to a hiring manager. Effective networking requires relationships – find ways to connect with others in a more meaningful way than just clicking a mouse and looking at a profile.
While I personally am an open networker on LinkedIn, I do try to reach out to people beyond just looking at a profile. If they invited me to connect, I follow up with an email to see how I can help them. If I am sending the invitation, I point out either a common bond that we have or why we should connect. Both of these activities set the stage for an ongoing interaction. Even better, ask for a time that you can actually call the person and really get to know them better.
Build the relationship
Networking must start with what can you do for others. This can be articles, information, expert opinions or access to your own network. For example, let’s say your new contact is an Estate Manager in Los Angeles. After talking on the phone, you realize that he is looking for a great caterer for an event at the residence. It just so happens that you know a wonderful chef who does catering work on the side – pass on that information. It benefits all three parties involved.
Relationships are also built in face-to-face meetings. Don’t be scared to get out of your house and meet other people face-to-face. Plus, don’t overlook the non-business related networking groups. One of my contacts actually found more job leads in her quilting circle on Meetup.com than the job seeker groups. Why? Because of the time invested into the group. People felt like they knew her after sitting and socially sewing for a few hours. When people feel like they know you, they will allow access to their own networks.
Be able to articulate what you are looking for
Many people want to help you, but if you can’t tell them how, they won’t bombard you with questions to find out what you need. For any contact, you should be able to clearly state what your target job and target employers are.
Be specific about those target markets. Just saying “I am looking for a job” is not going to get you anywhere. A much better statement is: “I am looking for a project manager position for a mid-sized IT company in the Denver area. Do you know any companies that may be looking?”
Show genuine interest in others
When we get to know other people – who they are, what they need and how we can help – this is the foundation of effective networking.