Networking – an alternate approach to “schmoozing”
We know that networking is the best job search strategy for tapping into the hidden job market but in reality, few people enjoy it or feel comfortable doing it. The thought of networking often conjures up the stereotype of being a schmoozer and feeling pressured to “work the room.” While attending a networking event and talking to as many people in the room as possible certainly works for some, I offer an alternate approach that could appeal to apprehensive networkers.
- Think of networking as establishing a relationship, genuinely connecting with another person, and gathering information.
Be friendly and rely on your own natural curiosity to ask questions about where they work, what they do, how they got their job, and advice they can share about getting your foot in the door. Be clear about what you want to say and what you want to ask. A little preparation ahead of time in terms of how you will introduce yourself and the questions you might ask can make a big difference in your confidence level.
- Consider changing your personal definition of networking success.
If success means that you need to work the room and connect with as many people as you can, much like speed dating, you may feel anxious. As an alternative, consider networking success as meeting and connecting with a minimum of two new people, for example. Focus on making a connection, exchanging information, getting a business card or contact information, and following-up on LinkedIn and/or sending a quick thank you email. Networking success can be defined by the quality of connections versus the quantity of connections.
- Seek out environments for networking that are comfortable for you.
As an alternative to formal networking venues, conduct your networking meetings in less social, more casual and informal settings. Reach out to meet for coffee with someone on LinkedIn, for example, or join a meet-up group in your area of interest. If you prefer “doing” while “talking,” consider connecting with groups like a hiking club or other interest based groups.
There is no one exact way to network. But with a little creativity and self-awareness, you can find a way to rock this job search strategy. The bottom line is to find a way to make networking fit for you and your personal style. HAPPY NETWORKING!
Check the Networking section on the iSchool Career Development pages for more information.
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