Some of us are natural networkers. We love going to events and parties, have no problem chatting up a stranger and make new connections smoothly. Others feel more comfortable using online avenues, posting to their Facebook pages, tweeting or just maybe monitoring what their friends and followers are doing. But success in these too-challenging times requires you to network both in person and cyberspace. Here are three tips to help:
1. Get out!
Dragging yourself off the couch and into an industry event is hard to do. But, look at your friends and partners and think back. Where did you meet them? Almost inevitably you connected because you were in the same place at the same time and it probably wasn’t in your living room unless you’re on Match.com. How many industry or work-related events are on your calendar? Going to a panel discussion, attending a trade show or conference, or even a party can yield a host of new contacts.
But come prepared. It sounds elemental, but bring business cards – it’s amazing how many people show up without them – and a pen. Have your “elevator pitch” down pat so you can quickly let someone know who you are, what you do and how that might relate to him or her. Introduce yourself to people (and hope they have name badges!). If you’re a wallflower type, bring along a friend or colleague to help ease into a conversation. And follow up! If you manage to wrangle a business card from someone, drop him or her a short note the next day and reintroduce yourself. And ask if you can reach out to them on LinkedIn. See #2.
2. Get Linked!
I help a lot of people shape their professional profiles. They’re almost inevitably and understandably focused on their resumes, but in reality the most important way to get your name out there is to beef up your LinkedIn profile. I can assure you that virtually every hiring manager, HR specialist and recruiter is on LinkedIn every single day. That CV you send may end up in the trash, but your LinkedIn profile is always available.
Your profile should mirror your resume, but in a slightly different form. I personally prefer profiles written in the first person with a more conversational tone. Each position you’ve held should have at least a brief description. Write a concise, punchy summary and throw every skill and experience you’ve ever had into the “Specialties” box because those are keywords that will ensure you show up in searches.
Once your profile’s polished, it’s time to join groups and add connections. Your goal should be to reach the “500+” level. LinkedIn is careful about how and who you can connect to. If you don’t know or haven’t worked with someone, the site will often ask you to provide an email address before sending your connection request. You can sometimes get around this by selecting “Colleague” when it asks how you know this person. Another way to reach people is by joining the same group they’re in which allows you to connect directly. Always add a short personal note rather than using the generic invite copy provided, letting them know why you want to connect (same industry, shared interest or groups, a quick question, etc.).
LinkedIn provides a lot of user help in improving your profile and will make suggestions for you. Follow them. One major thing that recruiters look at is your recommendations. They can carry a lot of weight particularly if they’re from a former supervisor or client. But be discreet about whom you ask and whom you recommend. A glowing recommendation about a former colleague who, in turn, crafts an equally glowing one for you can often tend to cancel each other out in a hiring manager’s eyes
3. Get involved
Joining organizations is a great way to network as is attending their events. But, you’ll get a lot more out of it if you volunteer to help at those events. You don’t have to be on the board or planning committee to participate. Just work the check-in desk or help set things up. Your efforts will be appreciated and you’ll have an expanded opportunity to talk with people. Besides, it feels good!