Networking: It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know

One of the most intimidating parts of venturing into the job market is the prospect of networking. Where do you go? What do you say? Although this process can be terrifying it is necessary and can be the key to opening up doors and creating opportunities in this difficult job market.  People network all the time.  Every social interactions we take part in creates impressions in other people.  The key to building a strong professional network is to use these everyday social interactions to your professional benefit.  With the over-saturated job market it is important to make and use contacts as a way to help improve your chances at landing the job you want.  While networking consists of everyday interactions there are strategic steps that can help you make a positive lasting impression on other professionals who are in a position to help you achieve professional success.  In today’s job market it is very helpful to attend formal networking events such as a business social or a association meeting.  There you are likely to find other participants who share your ambitions and goals.  At these events it will be easy to meet other professionals and exchange information. It is also very helpful to use the internet to network.  Site such as LinkedIn provide an excellent forum to conduct a job search and career networking.  There are several tools and tips which can help you network whether it is informal, formal, or electronic.

Elevator Speech
One of the most important networking tools to master is elevator speech.  Imagine you are in an elevator and in walk the president of a company you admire.  He asks you what you do and you have maybe twenty seconds in between doors to explain.  You elevator speech should be a short speech which informs the listener who you are and what you do.  You do not want to bore you listener by droning on and on about yourself.  Your elevator speech should be short and concise.  Relax, smile, and tell the listener your name, what you do, and what your goals are.  Keep in mind that less is more. Limit yourself to only a couple strong points.  End your speech in a strong, positive way.  It can be helpful to end your speech with a question to ensure that the conversation does not trail off into idle, mindless, chatter.  Ask the listener what his/her interests are, what they would like to accomplish, or what they are looking for in new employees or clients.  If you have a business card (they are cheap and easy to purchase) do not try to force it into the listeners hand.  Rather offer it to him at the end of the conversation.

Be Ambitious/Unique
Another key to successful networking is to be ambitious and unique.  People in professional positions value and, will often share, your ambition.  Set goals for yourself and do not shy away from mentioning them when speaking to other professionals.  You want to aim high but be realistic about your goals and ambitions.  When you are describing yourself be sure to mention what exactly differentiates you from other people.  Why are you special? Why should this person remember you? Ensure that your ambitions and differences shine in your elevator speech because they are what set you apart and make you an attractive contact and employee.

Be Polite and Confident
In order for your network to work for you, you must be willing to help others.  Contacts you make may call and ask you for information or a recommendation.  If you want any help from them in the future, you must be willing to reciprocate.  Your willingness to help them will not likely be forgotten and down the line if you need a favor they will likely be willing to help out as best they can.  Networks are complicated interconnected webs.  You do not want to harm your reputation by being unwilling to assist a colleague.  If you are genuinely interested in building and maintaining a strong professional network it is imperative that you be willing to assist others when they ask.

My Take
In today’s difficult job market it is networking is a great way to make contacts and get a leg up on the competition.  It is an invaluable skill that takes some patience and practice to master.


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