January 4, 2013
Networking mistakes can kill a job hunt
Effective networking is a game changer. It’s the unofficial homework of today’s professional. It’s not just who you know -- it’s who you know who knows who you want to know.
Most of us can navigate a room of name-tagged citizenry with reasonable success. But in this competitive world, why settle for adequacy? Here are a few of the ways you might be relegating yourself to the land of unanswered calls and discarded business cards, and some tips for improvement.
If you come across as someone who seems to network by flipping your on/off switch, that inconsistency is going to render your efforts ineffective and insincere. Instead, set aside time each week to keep doors open with key contacts. Keep in touch on an ongoing basis, and not just in fits and starts.
When opportunity knocks, don’t be the one huddling in the corner conducting a quick Google search. Do your homework ahead of time by maintaining your knowledge of current events, trends in your industry and shakeups in related companies. Be ready with “next step” follow-ups and suggestions for furthering a key connection.
Read the news. A working knowledge of current events is an easy way to add value to almost any conversation. Your industry will be affected by world events. Maintain at least a basic awareness of global situations or risk labeling yourself as non-visionary and, therefore, not address-book-worthy.
If it’s all about you, what’s in it for them? Don’t try to sell, but rather aim to connect.
Questions can be far more valuable than statements, and the resultant answers are more likely to provide information critical to discovering connection points. By asking questions, you make the other person feel involved in the conversation and build lasting bridges.
You’re out of touch
No time for Twitter? Lackadaisical on LinkedIn? While it’s difficult (and often unnecessary) to be a force on all things social media, dismissive statements -- “Why would I bother with that stuff?” -- will mark you as prehistoric and behind the times.
Instead, be strategic. Maintain profiles on the sites that are relevant to your industry and include these links on your business cards and email signatures. More connecting points will lead to more conversational opportunities, which will lead to more effective communication.
Unintentional rudeness is a connection killer that comes in many forms: lack of follow-through, obvious disinterest and the disregard of social niceties. Bottom line? If you say you’ll call, call. If you say you’ll make a referral, make the referral.
Focus on present interactions; avoid simultaneous Web surfing while on a phone call, or room scanning for “upgrades” during a face-to-face conversation. Be kind. Be polite. Be present.
Growing a viable network sounds like a great idea -- until something else comes up. The problem is, something always comes up. Set aside time for follow-up emails, thank-you letters and phone calls. Schedule weekly face-to-face meetings and add monthly events to your calendar.
You’ve got blinders on
Don’t limit interactions to suit your immediate needs. Dream big and your life will eventually catch up to your aspirations. Begin now to build the bridges to where you hope to be in five years. Be open.
Aim not just to network, but to build bridges between people, projects and companies. The payoff? Helping others to be successful puts you in the middle of a bunch of successful people -- the perfect place from which to achieve your own career excellence.
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