Networking Is Not a Spectator Sport – You Have To Get In The Game
How to be successful networking online and off
You already know you need to network. It’s often touted as the best way to find a new job. But for every career professional singing the praises of networking, there are a dozen people dreading the idea of reaching out to strangers.
The idea of networking is uncomfortable for most of us and downright nerve-wracking for others. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple techniques you can use to meet people without feeling like you are completely out of your element.
Getting Noticed on LinkedIn
Everyone said that you needed to be on LinkedIn so you created an account. You even made some connections. Now what? Sitting on LinkedIn waiting to be discovered is not enough – you need to be part of the conversation. One of the best ways to meet people is to join a few LinkedIn Groups.
Whatever your interest or industry there’s probably a group for that. Want to meet recruiters? How about people in your industry? Just click on the Groups tab and start exploring. Once you’ve joined a few groups read and contribute to the existing discussions. Offer advice and help where you can – even if it’s just a word of encouragement. You can also start discussions of your own by posing a question or posting articles of interest to the group.
The general rule for all groups is no blatant selling or self promotion. Your goal should be to add value. However, to avoid “foot-in-mouth” syndrome be sure to check the Group Rules for guidelines before posting.
Networking on Twitter
No doubt you’ve read how great social media is for networking. You may even have created a Twitter account. But are you participating? The whole point of social media is to be social – so go ahead jump into the ongoing discussion.
Start by using Twitter’s search function to find people to follow. You can search for specific people or try searching by your interests. Don’t limit yourself to following your friends, follow people you’d like to know too. Read their posts and look for opportunities to engage with them.
One of the quickest ways to meet people here is by participating in Twitter chats where you can connect in real-time. It’s like attending a networking event while sitting at your computer. Another bonus: you can “lurk” unseen in the background until you’re comfortable enough to jump in. There are chats focused on everything from job search to movies. Find some that interest you and join in.
Braving Networking Events
When it comes to networking events the secret is to go alone. I know you hate walking into a room full of strangers. But, the truth is when you go with a friend you end up spending the evening with your friend and not making any connections. And isn’t that why you’re going in the first place?
If you’re nervous about striking up a conversation with strangers, and most of us are, look for someone standing alone. There are always a few people lingering on the sidelines hoping and praying that someone will come over and rescue them. Be that person. Just walk over and say hello. Engage in conversation by asking them open ended questions like why they became an accountant or what they like about their job or what brought them to the event.
The more you chat with strangers the easier it will get. Still can’t bear the thought of walking into a room alone? Make a pact with your friend that you’ll have a glass of wine together but sit at different tables during dinner.
Start Networking Now
Make it a point to get out to one event this month. Be brave go alone. Devote a little time to social media this week. Comment on a LinkedIn discussion. Stick your toe in a Twitter chat.
Meeting people online is easy and convenient. Even better it often morphs into something more. That may mean getting to know each other over-the-phone or via Skype. If you get lucky, life will smile on you and you’ll get some face time.
Not long ago, I had dinner with a Twitter buddy who lives on the other side of the country. Last year, I ran a 5K with a LinkedIn acquaintance who became a close friend. You never know where or when you’ll make your next amazing connection. It might just be today
Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.