This article is part of an ongoing series of guest articles by James Fitzsimons, Director of Elevate Career Advice. Make the next step in your career count – visit Elevatecareeradvice.com.
It is a new year, which means that it is the time to start contemplating picking up or renewing some good habits; one of which could be improving upon your networking skills. Some people might ask, how do or why would I network when everybody is at home and there are no big networking events or meetings being held?
Networking has never been more important than in the current climate with people more motivated to reach out to one another amid lockdown. With this in mind, starting your networking habit for the new year will actually be much easier than if we were still in pre-pandemic ways of operating. People want to talk. Use this to your advantage.
The biggest mistake people can make when it comes to networking is thinking that it is a purely a transactional, tit for tat procedure.In the words of Kingsley Aikins, CEO of the Networking Institute and guest on our podcast The Career Scoop, what you want to do when you are networking is replace cold calls with hot coffees. Networking is all about building relationships. The only difference is that one day that relationship might enter into your professional world.
Here are some top tips to help you start networking throughout lockdown and working from home:
Tip #1: Meet People Through People
The best and easiest way to meet people is through referrals. Ask the people you already know to introduce you to their network and build upon these. Whether it is getting them to introduce you and share your contact details with someone in their network or even jumping in on your friends’ coffee morning zoom call with their network and introduce yourself. You will most likely receive a warm welcome in this case. There is a similar effect to LinkedIn through their online introduction tool or though joining their plethora of sector centric groups. This is a more organic way to expand your network and build up those desired relationships.
Tip #2: Leverage Your Social Media
Social media is an effective way to get to know important contacts better and without the pressure of a face to face meeting that you may not be prepared for. Seek out like-minded or key contacts you would like to know better within your LinkedIn profile, Google Plus, Twitter, Instagram accounts and more. Try commenting on a link they post or responding to a comment they make. Start a conversion with them and offer them help if they need it. When you have the opportunity to meet them in person it will be easier to reference previous communications with them.
Tip #3: Don’t Ask for A Job
Networking is not asking everyone you know for a job. When you network you should never ask someone for a job. Instead, you should ask people for information or for tips that will assist you in your job search or potential interview. You should ask questions like ‘what would you advise in regard to X?’ or ‘What would be the best approach in regard to Y?’. Your main networking goal, as we said before, should be building a relationship and establishing a rapport so when a potential opportunity may arise in the future, your contact may remember you and be willing to refer or help you.
Tip #4: Use Your Resume as a Tool for Advice
Another easy yet highly effective way to network during a job search is to ask others who you have established a relationship with to review your CV and give you feedback on how to improve it. When reviewing your CV they will discover your work history, your previous titles, your objectives and many things they may not yet know about you. They may remember a company or a connection that your background may be perfectly suited to. Never underestimate people’s kindness and ability to problem solve!
Tip #5: Do Not Take Up Too Much Time
Before you start networking, be sure to have an agenda and keep the meeting on track. Time is money and people are never happy with someone that takes up too much of their time. By planning out your meeting ahead of time, you will establish your professionalism, you will gain credibility and cover all the critical topics you wanted to cover.
Tip #6: Let the Other Person Speak
When networking, be sure you do NOT do all the talking. The key to being a good conversationalist is being a good listener. If you have asked another person for their advice or their opinion, make sure they have the opportunity to offer it. Perhaps, they are looking for you to add value to their work. If you do all the talking, the person may feel you are uninterested in what they have to say and unsure about what actions to take with the information you have supplied. Try turning the conversation around to the person you are talking to by asking some of the following questions:
- How long have you been with this company?
- Or how long have you been in this field?
- What do like or dislike about your job?
- What type of training did you need for this position?
- What is the culture of this company?
Tip #7: Present A Success Story
Once you have found a topic the other person may be interested in and you can offer advice on, present a solution by telling a story about how you helped other in a similar situation. Tell them about your problem and how you solved it but keep it short and sweet. Start by telling them about the problem and then your solution.
Tip #8: Ask for Suggestions on How to Expand Your Network
One of the main goals of networking is not only to meet one or two people but also to tap into their existing networks. Each separate person you meet with know approximately another 200 people. If you can gain introduction to some of these contacts, you will quickly increase your network and your chances of finding an extremely valuable connection. Ask your contacts if they can recommend a professional organisation or the names of the people you should be talking with.
Tip #9: Online Presence
Ensure your online profile is always up to date and reflects your own professionalism. Recruiters often use social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, to probe potential candidates and even to check out your skills and experience. The more professional and active your profile is the more legitimate a candidate or client you seem.
Tip #10: Always Remember to Say Thank You and Find A Reason to Follow Up
One of the most underrated and underused actions used in networking is the follow up. After your initial connection, make sure you send them a message saying how much you enjoyed and valued your encounter, say thank-you if they helped you with something and/or offer them your assistance if they need anything in the future. If you want to establish rapport with another person, create a reason to keep the relationship going. If you read an article that adds to a discussion you had, save it and send it to them with a brief note on what you found interesting and how you think it could benefit them. Try and find at least two or three opportunities yearly to reconnect with the members of your network.