Networking is one of the most important activities needed for finding a job today.
Networking can be as simple as talking to people you know, friends, relatives, and business acquaintances to make them aware that you are in the job market.
Networking can also be more structured, and participating in networking groups is a great way to reach out to others. A quick search of your local paper, the bulletin from your place of worship, chamber of commerce newsletter, the internet, the community college or your university’s alumni site will likely turn up multiple listings of networking groups.
Networking groups hold meetings at various times and venues. Some meet weekly, others monthly. You’ll find coffee-hour networking meetings in the morning, luncheon groups, and many that meet in the evening. They meet at restaurants, corporate offices, college campuses or municipal buildings. There are even on-line networking groups that schedule meetings in Internet chat rooms. Find one or more that are convenient for you.
Networking meetings generally start by each person introducing themselves and talking about what type of position they are looking for. If someone in the group thinks they can be of help with a contact, they volunteer a name or two. After everyone has had their say, there is generally an informal time where you can speak individually with one another.
If you feel uncomfortable or uncertain about participating in this type of forum, follow these quick tips to ease yourself into a group and gain more personal contacts, which can create more leads and help you find a job faster.
- Prepare a brief opening statement before the meeting. A one or two minute verbal presentation that provides specific answers to the query, “Tell us a little about yourself” is all you need to break the ice. This statement should be as compelling and straightforward as the career objective or career summary from your resume.
- Mention specific companies and industries in which you have experience and an interest. The more specific you are about what you are looking for and what your experience is, the better chance people have to help you. If there are specific companies that you have researched and would like to work for, be sure to share this information.
- Be prepared to share your contacts and information to help others. The benefit of networking groups is the give and take among its members. If you help someone out, they are likely to return the favor.
- Bring copies of your resume and have business cards available to hand out. If you aren’t presently working, consider creating a “personal” card that contains your contact information and a brief statement of your career objective, skills and qualifications.
- Don’t be shy about mixing with the participants. Introduce yourself to the group leader and stay around after the meeting to talk to other participants. Some group leaders often have expert job seeking advice and will be willing to share suggestions to help you in your search.
Some experts believe that over half the jobs are found through personal networking. Joining a networking group will not only broaden your list of contacts, it will also help strengthen your communication skills in preparation for important job interviews.
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