This expert is advice comes from Pam Stoker - Assistant Director, Graduate Career Service Center, Neeley School of Business, Texas Christian University
- Facts: 80% of jobs are found through networking. Most CEOs hire people that they know. The best network is one that is built one relationship at a time. It's not just a list of people that you happen to know. A network is a web of people with whom you have something in common -- a mutual acquaintance, a shared interest, the same alma mater. A network is also the portal through which shared things flow -- information, ideas, energy, contacts, favors, kindnesses, etc.
- It's not what you know or even who you know. It's who knows you. As you meet a person and have a conversation, you may quickly realize that you connect on multiple levels. As you talk, you may hear an idea you have never heard before, and suddenly, this new contact becomes a vital friend. This can lead you to consider new career options that you've never considered. It can also lead to someone recommending you or referring you for an opportunity that you did not even know existed.
- Every person you meet knows someone that you do not know, and every person you meet knows something that you do not know. Be open to suggestions of other people. They may see a quality in you that you do not see. If someone suggests that you might be good at something, take notice, because it might be the most fun thing you will have ever done.
- "Hi. My name is Pam. What do you do?" This is a classic opener for a networking event. The key is to get the other person talking first. As you listen, pick up on keywords that might have some relevance in your own experience. Make a mental note to mention that you, too, play in a band, or have a black lab, or worked in a zoo, for example. When you mention the connection, you create a relationship bond. The other person will most likely ask you about your background, and you have the basis for future conversations.
- When you receive someone's business card, that is your "permission" to follow up. After you have talked for a few minutes, plan your exit. You can say, "I know that you probably have some other people that you would like to meet, so I won't keep you. But I'd like to stay in touch. Would you mind if I contacted you again? Do you have a business card?" Then give them your business card in exchange. Take the card and read it, make a comment, ask a question, before you put it away. When you walk away, write on the back of the card something to remind you of the person you met. When you get back to a computer, send the person an email to say that it was a pleasure to meet them. You've just built another relationship for your network.
- Introduce yourself to the speaker before he/she speaks. At a professional meeting or business event, most people line up to meet the guest speaker after the presentation. Chances are that each person will get 2 minutes, at most, to meet and talk with the individual. To get the most individual time to talk, try finding the speaker BEFORE the meeting, introduce yourself, and tell why you came and that you are really looking forward to the presentation. If you have a few more minutes, ask how they got into this business, what their career path has been. Then, before you shake hands and leave, ask for a business card. It is likely that you will have had a good 10 minute conversation. After the event, you can look at the long line of people waiting to meet the speaker and smile.
Before you know what has happened, you will look back and realize that you have been networking, that scary thing that you thought you could never do. Keep it up, one relationship at a time, and opportunities will come your way proposing jobs, work, projects, ideas, trips, suggestions that you had not even imagined.
About the author: Pam has over ten years of experience in career management consulting, working with Fortune 100 executives and graduate business students. She is on the National Board of the MBA Career Services Council, is a Past President of the Fort Worth HR Management Association, and has coordinated JobNet, a job networking group for individuals in human resources.