Searching for a new job can quickly feel futile. You send out dozens of resumes and fill out countless online forms, and – more often than not – only get radio silence in return. But before you give up hope, consider the fact that more than 60% of all jobs are filled via networking. Some studies even estimate over 85%!
Networking is something that comes more naturally to some people than others. At first, it may seem really awkward or uncomfortable. The good news is that we have some tips that can help.
Be an active listener.
This is a skill that can benefit basically every aspect of your professional (and personal) life. “Active listening” means being curious and engaged. When talking to someone, ask questions. This is a great way to show someone you are interested in what they have to say, and can effectively demonstrate your own knowledge and understanding in a particular area. A huge amount of human communication is non-verbal, so nod your head, maintain eye contact, and lean forward.
Approach everything as an opportunity.
You do not have to be at a fancy gala or industry-sponsored event to network. Career-changing opportunities present themselves all the time, often in very unlikely (and casual) situations. When someone invites you to something, go! By getting in the habit of engaging the people around you, connections will naturally establish themselves and strengthen over time. Not to mention, the whole process will continue to get easier. You never know whose friend, or aunt, or neighbor just happens to be looking to hire for your dream job!
Don’t be someone other than yourself.
The last thing you want to do is come across as inauthentic. Not everyone is super bubbly with a smile plastered on their face – thank goodness! And while it is important to be engaged (as we mentioned earlier), this does not mean being fake. Demonstrate your professional value by talking about the things you know about and are interested in. It could also help to tell someone an interesting anecdote about yourself that someone can remember. The point is: be uniquely you.
Make it easy to follow up.
Maybe you had a great conversation and really connected with someone close to your industry. That is great! But if you do not have a way to contact them – or for them to contact you – it will not do you much good. Luckily, it is really easy to get in touch with people today. After meeting someone, friend them on LinkedIn or Facebook. You could also invite them for coffee or lunch to continue your conversation.
Remember: You are playing the long game.
Networking is something that you should be doing, regardless of whether you are currently looking for a new position or not. By actively making connections, you are more likely to hear about new opportunities and be considered for more positions. Building these connections can take time, but it will always be worth it.