The Conversationalist: How to Find Networking Gold
Successful job seekers understand that developing professional connections goes beyond career fairs, conferences, and professional meet-and-greets. Networking can take place anywhere you are. Sure, these networking conversations are frequently intentional and well planned, but sometimes you may find yourself shaking hands with a “mover and shaker” at a grocery store, a soccer game, or your Saturday night dinner date. For any situation you may find yourself in where a networking opportunity arises, you should make sure you can make the most of it by honing your conversation skills and heeding the following networking tips designed to make your networking kung-fu the best it can be.
The best tip for looking smart is to stay current on the events taking place in your industry and developing a personal opinion about relevant issues so that you can make compelling arguments. The more knowledgeable you are about the trends in your industry the better you can fill awkward conversation gaps and demonstrate your intelligence and passion for your field. As a side benefit, just about any employer respects a candidate with the initiative to become independently well-informed about industry happenings.
It may seem exceedingly obvious to show real interest in your conversation partner but it may not be clear as to how one should go about demonstrating interest. Showing your interest can simply involve asking insightful questions that show you’ve been paying attention and genuinely absorbing answers. Ask about your contact’s field, career, and even personal interests as you never know how this person’s background can help you in your own field.
You always want to make yourself as available as possible and forthcoming about your contact details. Make sure you always have a stash of business cards with you indicating your contact information and professional social media profiles. You’ve also given your new contact the option for sharing your information with other potential professional connections.
Don’t be Snobby
It’s easy to label people on a first impression, but when it comes to networking, don’t allow yourself to become too snobby and snub a potential contact just because the person doesn’t seem like a good fit with your interests. The more open you allow yourself to be, the more unexpected and useful information you can uncover. Keeping rigid expectations when networking can block you from discovering great job opportunities and gaining potentially valuable contacts.
Prepare your Pitch
The most important aspect of conducting successful networking conversations is to simply be prepared. You never know when a network opportunity might arise so ensure that you are always ready to explain your interests, education, work experience, and details of your job search. Developing a concise pitch can help keep you from bumbling through your presentation by giving you a prepared script that you can deliver off the cuff. You can focus on any aspect of your career that you like, be it the jobs you’re interested in, recent contacts you’ve made, or troubles you have encountered.
Networking conversations do not have to be sources of tension or insecurity. By keeping your industry knowledge current, remaining accessible, being open-minded, and being prepared with your elevator pitch, you will always be ready to connect with valuable contacts wherever you may find yourself.