Your job search is your number one priority. But instead of trying to network more, you’ll get better results from learning how to network smart.
Let’s be honest: job search networking isn’t easy for anyone. For many jobseekers, networking either feels icky and humiliating or it doesn’t seem to deliver a payoff, regardless of how many hours you invest in it.
Yet every career expert you consult tells you that networking is a critical part of a successful job search, especially in today’s hiring climate. So what gives? Is there something you’re missing about job search networking?
Maybe. Although it’s tempting to think that participating in more job fairs and networking events will automatically expand your employment network, scores of frustrated job seekers know that simply isn’t the case. So rather than pouring more time and effort into a black hole, refine your approach by incorporating a handful of smart networking tips into your job search strategy.
Know Your Objectives
Before you plunge headfirst into a career networking event, you need to know your networking objectives. Job fairs and other events will have limited value unless you know what you need to accomplish before you show up. Target specific employers who will be attending the event and arm yourself with information about their companies in order to add value to your conversations.
Likewise, when you conduct offline (non-event) networking, target specific individuals and identify what you want to achieve by adding them to your job search network. Instead of wasting time networking with people who can contribute little to your job search, narrow your activities down to high value networking targets.
Expect Unexpected Opportunities
Planning and strategy are extremely important in job search networking. But smart networkers know that you can’t always anticipate when networking opportunities will arise. Consequently, you need to stay alert for opportunities and be prepared to network at any moment.
How do you prepare for unexpected networking opportunities? One way is to craft an elevator pitch – a succinct summary of your job search goals and qualifications that you can casually pull out at any time. Many job seekers go the extra step of printing mini-resumes, i.e. business card-sized handouts that contain their contact information, performance profile, search objectives and possibly a few career highlights.
Nurture Your Network
Smart networking recognizes that career contacts need to be nurtured. The biggest blunder many job seekers make is to forget about valuable contacts after they have established initial contact. If you fail to periodically circle back around with people in your network, it’s likely that you will miss the payoff of the time and energy you have invested in networking.
To stay on track, consider systematizing your follow-up networking strategy. Create a simple spreadsheet or database that contains a prioritized list of job search contacts and a follow-up schedule that ensures every person in your network is contacted at least once a month.