It’s been said that 85 percent of jobs on the market are not advertised. This would mean that all the employment opportunities that you see on job boards, newspapers, and social media represent only a handful that might be available to you. Some of these jobs are filled from within companies such as when an employee is promoted to a different position, and others are filled by someone who was referred to the employer, but many more are found through networking. Networking is still one of the most widely discussed strategies when it comes to finding a new job or advancing one’s career, and much of it is still done in person. Yes, people do connect through social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, but the most meaningful professional relationships often begin with a face-to-face meeting at a job fair or some other networking event. The ability to network like a pro is still a valuable tool for job seekers, so here are some tips that can help you get ahead during your next networking event.
Prepare an Elevator Pitch
If you are planning to go to any networking event where you could interact with potential employers, you should take the time to prepare an elevator pitch. This is a short speech that you can give to someone that includes the most important information about you. At the very least, it should include who you are, what you do, and what you want to do if you’re currently looking for employment. It can also include where you went to college, what you studied while you are there, past accomplishments, and anything else that you think might be relevant to your new professional contacts. It should also be no longer than 60 seconds. After all, the reason why it’s called an “elevator pitch” is because you should be able to finish it in the time it takes to ride an elevator with someone. Prepare this pitch, practice it, and be ready to give it to everyone you can at your upcoming event.
Speak to People You Already Know
The easiest way to meet new people is through referrals from people you already know. If you know that some colleagues of yours will be at an event, stick close to them and try to involve yourself when they have conversations with others. You have to be careful about not interrupting anyone or coming off as rude, but people will be more willing to talk to you if you have a mutual acquaintance. This can also work for you outside of networking events. If you’re looking for job leads, ask your friends and family if they know anybody who might be willing to give you an interview. You might be surprised at what kinds of opportunities you find this way.
Research Potential Employers
When you’re not actively networking, you should still be doing plenty of research on potential employers or organizations that interest you. In some cases, this will be as simple as a Google search. In other cases, you might have to ask others what they know about an organization or schedule an informational interview with someone within the organization itself.
If you do decide to research employers and organizations through informational interviews, it will help to develop a standard format if you want these interviews to go smoothly. You can ask about entry-level positions in their organization, opportunities for advancement, or if there is anyone else in their field you can speak to. The goal here is to gather information, so while you should always be putting your best foot forward whenever you meet with a new professional contact, there isn’t as much pressure to impress anyone so they will hire you. It’s a little more relaxing in that way.
Listen to Others
Although you should be getting your name and accomplishments out to your new professional contacts, gathering information is just as important. This means that you should be spending as much time listening to others as much as you speak to them. Not only does this provide you with plenty of information that you can use in your job search and future networking events, but it shows that you are interested in what others have to say.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Networking in person may be more useful than simply reaching out to someone through social media or email, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still use social media to your advantage. A good LinkedIN profile can provide you with contacts and leads while letting potential employers and associates know who you are and what you do. Even sites like Facebook and Twitter can be used to promote yourself and look for leads. Social media shouldn’t be your only source of contact when networking, but it’s still too powerful to be ignored. Use it to start your search for job leads and professional contacts.
Don’t Ask for a Job
You might be networking to eventually find a good job, but that doesn’t mean you should be asking everyone you know if they can hire you. The goal of networking is to gather information about potential employers and professional organizations while getting your name and resume out to them. If one of the organizations that you research has an appealing open position, go ahead and apply with them through the proper channels.
Keep On Networking
Networking only works as long as you are willing to put enough time into it. If you fail to find any contacts or leads at an event, start looking for the next one. Keep checking social media and contacting any leads that you find. You will find something if you keep looking. Once you do find something, keep on networking. You will never know what kinds of leads and professional associations you make that can advance your career. There will always be new places to go, new things to learn, and new ways to improve your professional life. Never give up, no matter where you are in your life and career.