Taking the time to learn how to network effectively is worth the investment. You will be able to apply your networking skills towards meeting others to develop meaningful business and personal relationships which can lead to new job opportunities and even financial gain. This article covers some of the basics of how to network your way to a new job.
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Networking needs to be done consistently throughout a career, but that’s not always feasible in a world of 70-hour workweeks and family commitments. To jumpstart a network that’s out-of-date, start by asking those former colleagues who you have stayed in touch with for the contact information you need.
If that’s not an option, try searching social- and business-networking sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo to find old connections. Personalize network-invitation requests with a memory the two of you shared or a reminder of who you are. Once you’ve re-established your relationship, you can also view the friends of your connections, and request an introduction to people at companies that interest you.
Next, arrange in-person meetings with these people to build stronger ties. Be mindful of your contact’s time; you might not be the only one asking for help. Ask for 10 minutes to chat, or offer to catch up over coffee or lunch.
If you’ve exhausted your efforts to find people or need to start from scratch, professional associations are a good place to begin. Associations give you access to other professionals who may work for or have contacts within companies you want to join.
Join trade groups in your niche and then look for events they’re hosting that you can attend. These offer the opportunity to network with people who speak your industry language. If you’ve been in a more senior executive position, consider volunteering to speak at industry and trade conferences or offer to serve on committees for professional associations. These are also ideal ways to meet people.
Alumni associations offer another way to make professional connections. Contact your alma mater’s alumni-relations office to gain access to its online member database, which might allow you to search for old friends by name, class or even employer.
Informal networking can also help. If you find yourself standing in line at the bank or grocery store, strike up a conversation with the person behind you. The results may surprise you.
And remember, networking works both ways. Always offer to return any favors your contacts provide and be sure to contact them even at times when you don’t need their support.
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