What is your best kept secret?
Well, mine is networking. At least it has been to date. This secret has landed me all three of my jobs . I am sure hoping it works its magic again, cross your fingers. I have found in the past that my network is working for me even when I am not in transition. It really amazes me.
At some point in college, someone told me I should start networking. Little did I know then, that was probably the best advice anyone ever gave me. While no one ever told me the proper networking etiquette, I have figured out what works well for me. For me, I think networking with contacts in one-on-one meetings has been the most successful versus true networking events. I am on the shorter side. So I feel that, combined with being a young working woman, I tend to get lost at these sorts of events even if I am screaming at the top of my lungs. What has been your experience?
When I began networking my senior year of college, it all started with my family and one question, “do you have people you think I should talk with as I start my job search?”. I was shocked with their response as they eagerly handed over their friends and colleagues contact information. Right away I started calling these people to set up informational interviews. Once I met with them, they soon were handing over their contacts too and the chain continued. My network was born.
Six years later as I find myself in transition, the first thing I did was export all my contacts from Outlook, sorted by location based on where I want to live and began setting up meetings again to reconnect and network. Just last week, during a networking phone call, this person suggested that I look through their LinkedIn profile, find connections that I was interested in and they would make an introduction. It was online networking at its finest. It blew me away.
Here is my “how to” guide on networking when in transition. All networking tips are good ones and what may work for me might not for others so please share in the comments section what works for you.
- Start by creating a list of your current contacts (Outlook, Friends, Family)
- Identify a region you want to live in, focus on those contacts first
- Start calling those people and let them know you want to get together for lunch or coffee*
- Research as much as you can about the person and company
- Look on their company careers page to see of they are hiring so you can inquire when you meet
- Follow up a day or so before, to confirm the meeting
- Prepare four to five questions you want to ask in the meeting
- Wear a business suit, even if you know the person you are meeting with wears jeans EVERYDAY
- In the meeting, be sure to ask the golden question “Do you have others you think I should connect with?”
- Let the meeting be more conversational, rather than stiff and rigid
- After the meeting send a thank you note to both the person who introduced your contact and the person you met with
- If they recommend you someone to follow up with or connect with, do so right way and then let them know the status of those next meetings
*I have made a rule to always call and never email when starting conversations with people. I think it shows motivation to pick up the phone and they hear that you are serious about getting together. It’s also a lot harder to say no over the phone too than in an email.