Fake It ‘Til You Make It: How to Immediately be Better at Networking

Part of an effective job search is being strategic about what you’re doing each day and how much time you’re spending in each of the different types of search-related activities. I call this diversifying your job search strategy, and you know I tout it like crazy! Because it works, simply put. If you know you have “x” hours per week to conduct your job search, based upon your current employment situation and life priorities, then it’s important that you are spending that time engaging in activities that make the most sense in terms of knowing where the opportunities in your field are most likely to be found, and understanding how to tap into that for the best return.

I’m hard-pressed to find a job seeker, or professional in general, whom networking can’t benefit. Problem is, when we don’t know how to do it effectively, or don’t aptly understand its potential benefits as it relates to our objectives, we’re likely to either shy away from it completely, or not give it the sincere effort it requires to produce a return of any kind.  Awareness and education are a big part of the equation, and if networking is in fact something that makes you uncomfortable, then perhaps your first action item is simply to learn more about potential networking opportunities and resources, and how to leverage them.

The purpose of networking is essentially to build mutually-beneficial personal and professional relationships with people whom you can share ideas, resources and connections, and you do so by building rapport and trust with someone. You don’t simply find someone on LinkedIN and ask for favors out of the gate. It’s important to understand the two-way exchange that goes on in a networking relationship, and that it’s about helping and learning about people, rather than simply what they can do for you. Give me a reason why I should engage with you, other than you simply asked me to, because chances are I don’t know you, and I really don’t feel any obligation to help you out. It’s like the kindergarten school yard – you’re asking me to share my fire truck with you, and I suppose I could if I’m just really feeling generous that day. But see, my friend Melissa over there also wants a piece of said fire truck, and well, I know as a fact that she carries extra candy in her lunch box. So you see, I’m at a crossroads. Melissa’s value proposition is much higher to me right now.

At least it would have been, in 1985. Some things never change.

I recently presented some similar tips on networking and general resume and job search best practices during a talk I did at Touro College in NYC on Creating an Effective Job Search Strategy. Like anything else, networking takes time, practice and requires a good amount of planning and strategy to really do it effectively. But here are a couple of my top tips for at least getting started off on the right foot, so that you can build a foundation for creating long-lasting, beneficial relationships with connections you make in any situation.

1. Make your intention to network about creating new, mutually beneficial relationships. The first introduction is NOT the time to ask for job leads.

2. Approach networking with a mindset of wanting to help others, and take an interest in their success. This makes introductions and conversations less intimidating.

3. Set appropriate goals to get the most out of your activities (i.e. “talk to 5 people” or “make at least 1 quality connection whom I can help or can help me”). Find out who will be at an event beforehand.

4. Have your “elevator pitch” prepared so you can clearly communicate what type of work you do, if someone asks you how they can help. It’s not about sounding salesy; it’s about sounding confident in communicating your personal brand, and what your top qualities and core competencies are that you can bring to the table.

5. Give people a venue to speak about themselves, which can in turn provide you with valuable insight into your industry. Remember – people like to talk about themselves, and they also like to help others.

6. Ask those you wish you remain in contact with if you can follow up with them, and then send a thank you email, or even a relevant piece of information (articles they may find helpful, etc.) the next day. This is about setting the foundation for continuing to keep in touch and build the relationship.

7. Respect people’s time. Do not hound a new contact with emails, nor take too much of someone’s time at an event.

8. If you have your own business, and use a mailing list, make sure you ask your new contact if you may add them to your list before doing so.

9. Tend to and continually develop your own existing network by providing news, updates, discussions and other quality information.

10. Consider engaging in different areas of thought leadership, whether that’s blogging within your industry, commenting on others’ blogs, utilizing social media to share information, or participating in or starting relevant conversations on sites like LinkedIN. Thought leadership is a great tool for increasing your visibility among peers and potential hiring managers by positioning yourself as a credible subject matter expert in your field.

Thoughts on those, or others that you would add? Chime in! It’s all about information sharing, folks! Cheers, and God-speed fellow networkers.

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9 Comments on "Fake It ‘Til You Make It: How to Immediately be Better at Networking"


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Suzanne Ronayne
6 years 4 months ago

Thanks, Dana. I go to networking events and meet tons of people, but it is so hard to really form any kind of bond with anyone. Someone I met tonight said that it is a ‘numbers game’, and the more people you meet the greater the chance that you’ll meet someone who can help. He confirmed what I had thought all along. (Kind of like speed dating without the time limit) When you do follow up with people you’ve met, rather than become a news service, wouldn’t it be nicer to just ask them how their son is doing in college, how did the house move go last weekend, where are you going on summer vacation etc?

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Suzanne Ronayne
6 years 4 months ago

Dana, there is no common topic of interest with the people in my network or those I meet at events – it’s all just small talk. The only articles/resources I come across are for job-hunting. But I never meet other job-seekers – just business people looking for clients. Do I really HAVE to spend hours trawling the Internet just to find some random article that MIGHT be of interest to some of the people I met at the event last Tuesday? I just don’t get this at all.