The art of networkingMention the term “networking” and you will witness a wide range of emotions.  Introverts tend to tremble in fear at the prospect of meeting and greeting strangers.  Extroverts will relish the opportunity to be in the midst of an audience with no limits on the conversation.  Networking, however, is not as difficult as you may think.

If you are currently looking for a new career, either through unemployment or the need to switch careers, networking has now become your new job.  Career coaches will tell you that 80 percent of jobs are found through networking.  They will also tell you that networking is a simple formula. The formula is as follows: Meet, Ask, Listen, Learn, Act, Thank. 

Meet – You should have a list of contacts for people within your field.  Use this list to focus on specific individuals to reach out to each week.  As you talk to your contacts, find out about their contacts. Never network blindly, have an agenda in mind.  The agenda should include updates on your current situation and information about your efforts thus far. If necessary, create a networking script to practice and help you to stay focused.

Ask –
While the main purpose for networking is to find others that can help you, remember that you can also give in return.  You may not have a job, but you may have skills that can be of use to someone else. 

Listen – Make sure that you listen and not make it all about you.  This is a great opportunity to build rapport.  You may be desperate for a job but force yourself to ask the other person questions.  Find key words to utilize as memory aids.  Take notes if it will help you to remember.  By creating value within your networking, your success will increase.

Learn – Networking is a perfect opportunity to learn about trends in your field. Use the information you learn to sound even more knowledgeable in your next networking event.

Act – If networking garnishes you additional contacts or job opportunities, make sure that you follow up on them as soon as possible. 

Thank – Don’t just connect after the meeting to further your job search.  Invest in the time to show an expression of gratitude and sincerity.  Follow up each networking event or meeting with a thank you note.  This will keep you fresh in their minds.

While many times it appears that the goal of networking is often self serving, it should not be.  Networking should always be a give and take situation.  As you generously assist others and share knowledge, you will increase your exposure to those that can help you improve your career circumstances.