The art of business networking
Networking skills are essential to every balanced job search. These days, hiring managers and decision makers are more likely to talk to candidates who have been recommended by someone they know and trust.
When networking, remember these networking basics: offer to assist others and return the favour whenever possible; ask for advice but not for a job; and, never pressure anyone to help.
Professional networking is about ‘giving to get’ and involves:
- Sharing your knowledge and influence to help others
- Uncovering unadvertised job opportunities
- Obtaining referrals
- Gaining interview practice
- Learning more about a position, organisation and industry
- Making new contacts.
Build your networking skills
Potential employers may search for you on social media sites so it is usually a good idea to have a presence on LinkedIn for example or other appropriate professional online forums. Create a profile and make sure it includes your most recent accomplishments. Also, take advantage of LinkedIn Groups. Industry or alumni associations and groups are good places to make connections and uncover leads and jobs. Responding to a position posted by a group is often more effective than applying for the same position on a job board.
However, take care with what you post on social media sites as depending on your security settings, potential employees or employers may be able to view posts which you may not wish to share with them.
Next, make a list of contacts with whom you would be comfortable discussing your career options. They can be relatives, friends, social contacts, former work colleagues, bosses, subordinates, customers or suppliers, contacts met at conferences and seminars, thought leaders you know, etc. This will form the basis of your professional network.
Now it 's time to seek informational interviews to help you learn more in a general sense. Politely approach your contacts, starting with those connected in some way to a company, job or industry that appeals to you. If they are willing to have a conversation, agree on a timeframe, and respect it. After each conversation, verbally thank your contact for their time, and follow up with a written note. Also, ask if they know anyone else you should talk to, and see if they would be willing to phone or email ahead, introducing you. This will help you expand your professional network.
Additional business networking skills
- Always keep your CV up-to-date and ready to send on a moment’s notice.
- Prepare and practice a 10-second ‘elevator speech’ that succinctly describes who you are and what you are seeking.
- Do research about companies of interest and try to unearth the names of hiring managers to approach based on a recommendation from your network.
- Build relationships steadily over time; developing a professional network requires daily attention, and does not happen overnight.