If you’re hunting for a job, you understand the need to network. And on a surficial level, networking is far simpler than, say, writing a cover letter or negotiating the minefield of a job interview: Meet people, talk to them, and build a relationship. Easy, right?
Not really. Whether or not you’re an introvert, effective networking demands a fairly significant amount of prep work, along with a solid strategy for when you actually interact with someone face-to-face. Here are three things to keep in mind:
Offer Something for Something
It’s amazing how some people, after an introduction, immediately ask you for a favor of some kind. Presumably it’s a technique that’s worked for them at some point in the past, but it’s not the sort of thing that will reliably result in leads, job news, and whatever else you need.
Instead, after meeting someone, take the time to build the relationship before you ask for something. Send the occasional email about a topic of mutual interest, or offer to take them out for lunch; if your new contact accomplishes something notable, send a congratulatory note.
The relationship-building should continue even after you land a job. If your contact lent a hand in your search, be sure to send them a thank-you note (and perhaps a small gift). If they need help, offer it. You never know when you might need them again.
Set Your Goals
Many people plunge into the networking game without definitive goals. While this won’t stop anyone from generating results, it could prove motivating to set some realistic targets. For example, someone just starting to build their network might task herself with meeting three new professional contacts a week, and generating two solid job leads per month. Once you’ve achieved your initial set of goals, raise the bar a little higher.
Network with Everyone
Sure, it’s great to have a CEO or two in your contacts list. But your former co-workers, current vendors, or even interesting colleagues are the people who’ll really give you the leads you need.