Networking, even as a jobseeker, should never be entered into without first remembering that it’s all about exchanging what you have for what others want.
If networking is about the exchange of information or services as Merriam-Webster.com puts it, then jobseekers do themselves no favours if they turn up to a networking event seeking merely to sell themselves.
Yes, of course you go along to these events in the hope of getting a job, but if that’s all you talk about you’re hardly going to stand out, are you? However, if you focus on what others want and what you have to offer in return – a bit like you would do in a job interview – then you’ll present a much better proposition. It’s different to focusing simply on me, myself and I!
A better approach to networking as a jobseeker
What this approach will do is alter the way you speak and make you sound much more interesting from the outset. When the opportunity comes for you to talk about yourself, you’re going to say something far more interesting than, “I’m unemployed and looking for a job in x, y x.” You’re going to say something more along the lines of, “I’m developing my skills in digital marketing by interning (volunteering or freelancing) and looking to build on. I’m looking for a company that can use what I’ve learnt.”
So, when networking as a jobseeker remember that you have something of value to offer, because it’s true. You have the skills, experience and knowledge someone else needs. Approach the networking event in a way that shows what you can do for the company and people you’re hoping to meet. Talk about what you’re doing to occupy your time rather than just saying you’re unemployed, even if it’s just learning or researching an area of interest. This type of mindset will guide your approach to networking as a jobseeker much better.
Who can really use your skills?
Now it’s a case of looking for the best company to offer those skills to. Pay close attention to what others are saying. Who are they looking for and what do they have to offer? This is where many jobseekers fall down as they aren’t really listening to what the company is saying it wants. Again, this is no different to the attention you would give to the criteria listed on a job application. Share stories and examples from your own experience that shows you’re the right fit.
My final piece of advice when networking as a jobseeker is to be confident. Be confident that what you have to offer is valuable. If you find you’re nervous before going along to an event, adopt what Amy Cuddy calls the power pose. The power pose is a posture that takes up as much space as possible, which is what people tend to do when they feel confident. They may stand with their hands on their hips and feet apart, sit with their feet up on a desk and their hands behind their heads or simply hold their hands in the air above their heads as one does when he or she has won a race. Adopting this type of pose releases certain hormones in the body that makes you feel confident.
Cuddy’s research found that job candidates who did this before interviews came across as much more confident. They stood out not so much for their skills and experience but for the impression they left in the minds of interviewers.
If you do this, you will stand a better chance of successfully networking as a jobseeker. You will be more likely to be remembered and therefore to get what you really want, a great graduate job.