Being a student, the limbo period between semesters is always the most challenging time to obtain employment. This is simply because most organizations are not interested in hiring someone for a mere two to four months and have them disappear when September rolls around.
As I’m currently in said limbo, I have had to become creative with my job search. I also had to rely on a tool that most of us dread using: The fine art of sweet-talking, better known as networking. To prepare for this blog post, I spent hours reading up on similar content all stating that, “Networking is the key to success.”
The fact is, most literature provides cookie-cutter suggestions on how to network. In my experience, different scenarios call for different tactics. I think most of us have developed the necessary skills to effectively network. However, sometimes we aren’t sure how to put them to use! I also think that it is really important to break down networking into smaller categories, so the task does not become a daunting challenge we may struggle to overcome.
The mindset of networking:
- Recognize the real goal of networking: Network with the intention of helping others, not yourself. This is the foundation of networking. You’d be surprised by how many opportunities can come out of a genuine connection and willingness to assist others.
- Remember the “Golden Rule” of life and apply it to networking: Treat others how you want to be treated. In other words, be respectful, friendly and caring. Be your humble self (and if you aren’t, try)!
- Initiate conversation: It may seem awkward to initiate conversation with someone you have never met before. When I get nervous, I try to remind myself that everyone in the room is a person, just like myself. I’ve recently realized life is too short to shy away from what you want. As cliché as it is, you miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take (as per my boy Wayne Gretzky)! Be confident!
- Go beyond your industry: If you expand your network out of your usual field of expertise, you will gain access to valuable information that and individuals who are not in your immediate circle. You never know whom you will meet, the places you may discover or the skill-sets you may learn.
- Decide whether or not you want to bring backup: At times, it will work to your advantage to have a friend or significant other during networking events (especially large ones). However, I have actually had a better time (and luck) at events where I attended solo. I used my time to work the crowd, rather than interact with my personal guests. I have also received networking feedback from companies that I have done business with. They often prefer the initial meeting to be one-on-one.
Engaging in conversation:
- Share your passion: Hobbies, interests and dreams are an easy way into a conversation. Be enthusiastic and charm potential contacts with your genuine interest in a particular cause, topic or product. Even if the individual doesn’t share the same interests, they will likely respect you for following your passion and being confident enough to share it with others.
- Highlight your skills: Drop the long-winded sales pitch. Have an elevator pitch ready that you can share in 45-seconds or less. Share your most significant strengths and experiences that are both interesting and concise. Do not list off all of your accomplishments and be sure not to brag. Leave your potential contacts with a little bit of mystery to uncover during your next conversation. The key is to hook them, kind of like it’s a real-life online dating service (though it’s really, really not).
- Don’t dominate the conversation: Instead, use your time to make others to feel special. Listen to what others have to say and create a dialogue surrounding that. Executives and entrepreneurs love to share their stories and experiences. Others are more likely to remember you if you discuss topics that are interesting or relevant to them.
What to bring:
- A smile: A smile is worth 1,000 words, and guess what? They’re free! Research suggests that others respond more positively to happy individuals. An added bonus? Your nerves will probably be settled easier with a smile.
- Business cards: Never underestimate the usefulness of a business card. They are the most helpful tools used during networking sessions. How else are potential investors, partners and clients going to get in contact with you after the an event or meeting? If you really are too shy to chat up others, you can simply leave a few cards scattered around. However, you obviously pose a greater risk of being passed up this way.
- A pen and notepad: Never leave anything to your memory while networking, especially if you’re collecting information. We are so busy in our that it to recall everything from memory when you have hundreds of thoughts floating through your head is a literal chore. We all talk in 140-character status updates, anyways. Plus, you are more likely to remember something if you write it down!
- Camera and/or cell phone: As a blogger and fashion editor, my iPhone attends all events with me (duh). Personally, having a smart-device is useful for snapping photos of new merchandise, for photographing visual displays or for a capturing a selfie with your business idol (if you’re lucky)! Be fun with networking.
Managing your network:
- Always follow up: Networking is where the conversation begins, not where it ends. If you establish a good connection with someone, be sure to ask for their contact information. For best results, follow up within a week to show your interest. If you provided them with your contact information and they did not contact you, reach out to them yourself and remind them of your past interaction. Perhaps, they were busy with other engagements or are not currently looking for someone to fill any position. Even if the situation proves to be the latter, a quick phone call or short e-mail will keep you at the top of their memory. And that’s good!
- Make time for your current network: Networking isn’t always about connecting with new individuals or organizations. Don’t forget about those you have already established a relationship with. Set e-mail or calendar reminders to catch up with old connections every two to six months.
What are some of your favourite networking tips?