Start Here: Networking Basics for Jobseekers
There’s no shortage of networking advice out there, especially for job seekers. But before you get into the nitty gritty of resume fonts and what to wear, it’s important to nail down the basics of networking. Set yourself up for success by starting with these four basic networking principles.
1. Tell Everyone You’re Looking
Within reason, of course. If you’re currently employed and looking to get out, be mindful of putting coworkers in uncomfortable situations. And use discretion when posting on LinkedIn and other social networks; it’s not always clear who is connected to whom, which means a screenshot of your “Get me out of here!” post could end up in your boss’s inbox.
Otherwise, do not keep your job seeking status a secret from anyone. Networking isn’t just about conference halls and business card. Your neighbors, college mentors, former coworkers, your friends’ friends, the folks you chat with at the gym – these people are part of your network too. You never know who has a cousin or childhood friend who now works at the company you’re dying to get into. The next time someone asks “What have you been up to?” ditch the small talk and tell them!
2. Get Your Story Straight
So, now that you’re telling everyone about looking for a job, what are you actually saying? A carefully crafted elevator pitch can help you tell your story in a way that feels natural and encourages dialogue. We’ve covered the elevator pitch in the past, but, in general, a strong elevator pitch will communicate your current job, some highlights from your previous experience and your goals for the future. So, it could be something like:
“I’m currently a project manager for XYZ Industries, which means I’m responsible for making sure all of our projects are delivered to clients on time and within budget. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with the marketing department and take on a few side projects, which have been really fun and interesting. I’d love to find a new opportunity that allows me to focus more on marketing and utilize some of what I’ve learned.”
This is just an example. Your pitch should be in your own words and feel appropriate for the situation; what you say to a recruiter at an industry meet-up should probably be a bit more buttoned-up than what you say to an acquaintance at happy hour.
3. Say “Yes” To All Invitations
Anyone who’s ever played “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” knows that networking works in mysterious ways. It can be tempting to dismiss opportunities that don’t have clear connections to job openings, but it’s best to err on the side of saying “yes.” Accept invitations to meetings with people who are in your desired industry but don’t necessarily have any hiring power, geography-based meet-ups, exploratory interviews and college alumni gatherings. Approach these opportunities with an open mind and a curious spirit and you’ll be amazed by how one conversation can lead to more conversations, introductions and even references and recommendations. Worst case scenario: you meet some new people and have a few friendly, inconsequential interactions.
4. Don’t Stop Once You’ve Got the Job
Your professional network should be a living, breathing ecosystem. Don’t let it die the second you get the job offer! Periodically check in with the connections you don’t see on a regular basis. You can send a quick note with a link to relevant news clipping or make time to grab coffee. Besides helping you find employment, a healthy network can be a great resource for professional advice, development opportunities and industry news.
One more thing about networks: they work two ways. Make sure you pay it forward. Respond to emails and facilitate connections for others. By helping out a colleague, you’ll also grow and strengthen your own network.
Jenessa Connor is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and young adult author. If you don’t find her in front of her computer, check the local movie theaters and restaurants, Prospect Park or the gym at CrossFit 718.