Networking is a skill that requires time and dedication to master. Fundamental networking techniques will serve you throughout your career.
Basic networking techniques
Start by creating an elevator pitch that shares accomplishments and characteristics that make you unique and valuable to potential employers. Then, set goals for job fairs and similar events. Decide how many potential employers you want to visit and what you’d like to discuss with recruiters.
Identify companies in your field and don’t try to force a match. Finding the right opportunity will take some time, but it will be worth the wait. When speaking to recruiters, focus on listening more than speaking to gain valuable information in a pressure-free environment.
Prepare to ask and answer conversation starters. Questions that sound like small talk can be opportunities to learn information, build rapport, or even test an interviewee’s social skills.
When speaking, find a balance between driven and polite. Ask questions, but don’t push people who are too busy to speak with you.
Adopt a proactive approach to following up. Take notes of who you spoke with and mark your calendar to periodically check in with your contacts.
Avoiding networking mistakes
Few people are natural networking experts. However, with a little guidance, you can avoid making common networking mistakes.
Common networking mistakes
Avoid sticking to only one form of networking. If you develop a preference for social media-based networking, then you’ll miss out on opportunities that may arise from in-person interactions.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask for career advice or help with a job search, but avoid rushing into networking to solve your career troubles.
Avoid spamming contacts with desperate messages or emails. Instead, be genuine and generous with interacting with others; your hard work will pay off in the long run.
Finding a mentor
In addition to being valuable networking contacts, mentors provide lessons in areas such as problem-solving and leadership that help you build professional skills and confidence.
Best practices for success with career mentors
Understand the role of a mentor. They will answer questions and offer advice, but don’t expect them to use their connections to help you get ahead in your career.
Set goals for yourself and for the mentorship. Identify your weaknesses and find a mentor who is strong in those areas. Explain your current needs and what you’d like to receive from the mentor.
Reach out to past employers, coworkers, college alumni, and executives at your current company when searching for potential mentorships. Look for diversity of perspectives and recognize the value of learning from individuals working in a variety of positions and fields.
Consider different approaches to building a relationship. Some individuals directly ask to be mentored, while others strike up a casual conversation with a potential mentor and let the relationship develop organically.
Show the mentor that you value their feedback by incorporating it into your career. And don’t forget to demonstrate your gratitude. Send a handwritten note or make a professional introduction that could help their career.
Using networking tools
Technological advancements and social media trends continually influence networking methods. Keeping up with common networking tools is essential to expanding your professional network.
Common networking tools
Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Meetup, Twitter, Zoom, and Instagram can be used to nurture and develop relationships. Facebook can be used to post informative articles and grow a following, and LinkedIn is great for posting surveys and inspirational quotes and joining industry groups.
Twitter allows users to interact directly with industry leaders and follow industry news sources, while Instagram can be used to search hashtags for job openings and engage with potential employers.
Making the most of virtual interactions
Virtual job fairs and other online career events will test your networking skills, whether you’re pursuing entry-level or senior positions. Before attending a virtual job fair or interview, familiarize yourself with the practices and technology used to conduct online networking events so you’re prepared to make the best impression.
Tips for virtual conversations and interviews
Research companies, recruiters, and interviewers, and prepare a list of relevant questions. Form questions that will help you gain a better understanding of the internal workings of the organization and potential job pathways.
Practice professional speaking and avoid saying “um” or using slang such as “LOL.” Be persistent and understand that finding a relevant job opportunity can take a while.
The most important tip
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just beginning your career, keep in mind that most professionals have some doubts and insecurities about their ability to network. Don’t be afraid to be yourself — genuine people can be hard to find, making them stand out from all the rest.