With these handy tips, networking as a jobseeker is like selling ice-lollies to kids on a hot summer beach.
In part one of Networking as a Jobseeker, we talked about how to prepare for a networking event. We discussed being mindful of your value, doing your research, and where to network. In this second part, we’ll focus on how to network successfully once you arrive.
Start a conversation.
Networking is about opening lines of communication so first, you need start a conversation. Some people are naturally good conversationalists, others not so. If this is you, begin with those standing or sitting nearby, during session breaks or perhaps while queuing to buy a coffee. Ask someone sitting alone if it’s okay to sit with them. Share an observation, make a comment or offer a friendly suggestion – “The queue for coffee is shorter upstairs.” If you enjoyed a session, tell the speaker so afterwards.
Let the other person talk.
This may seem odd if you are trying to start a conversation, but don’t go on and on about yourself; you will turn people off. You may also miss opportunities to learn. Instead, let the other person do most of the talking, at least initially; let them talk about themselves. It makes them feel good. They will remember that “…nice young man (or woman)” they met though they may not be consciously aware of why!
And what exactly do people like to talk about? Well, their own interests, perspectives, ideas and goals. They will enjoy giving their advice. So, start by asking questions about how they got into their line of work, what route they took, what it was like when they first began, and how they think the industry has changed over time. Use the research you carried out to develop the conversation, for example, “I read that your company is doing x, y, z… why is that? How is it going?” You will learn lots.
Give people your full attention while they’re speaking. Genuinely listen. If your eyes are shifting around the room or you keep checking your phone, then it will become apparent that you really aren’t interested in what they have to say. None of us like that.
Confidently offer your skills in exchange.
. In part one I talked about developing the mindset of one who is not simply there to ask for a job, but one with valuable skills to offer in exchange. Now put that mindset into action. You aren’t the only one who needs something: the employer needs something too! Offer what you have to the right company or person. Tell them what you have been doing to build your skills, what you have learnt, and where you think those skills can be best employed. Remember, the purpose of your skills is to solve their problem.
Don’t overstay or over-talk.
Know when to say good bye. There is nothing worse than a person that lingers long after the conversation has naturally ended. It could be a sign you are over-talking if the person has become distracted, has begun to focus on someone else or has just stop talking. Worst case scenario is when your contact has said something like, “Well, nice meeting you”, “Okay, let’s stay in touch”, ‘I’d better go now”, or other indirect ways of saying goodbye and you still insist on waffling on.
Don’t rule out speaking to other jobseekers at the event as they could prove useful too. Exchange experiences. You never know, that person may know of job openings for people in your line of work or be an expert on interviews. Be inclusive in your approach.
Stay in touch.
Before you leave, ask for a contact card. Jot on the back the key points you spoke about, and the date and location where you met. Send a follow up message afterwards even if only to say “thanks” or “great to meet you and to discuss x, y, z”. If the person promised to get back to you on something, say, “I look forward to hearing from you.” If you promised to follow up say, “I’ll be in touch again soon.” If nothing else, your courtesy will be remembered.
Write down what you’ve learnt after each networking event. Note tips, advice, names, stories and other information. It will help crystalize the information in your mind so that your brain can easily recall it later when you need it.
Follow up and relationship building opportunities can also come from attending further events the same person/company is also attending. Reaching out to a ‘first contact’ by asking how a project or initiative is progressing is a good way to continue to build valuable relationships.