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If your job hunt isn't working, it may be because you're not searching the right way. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 79 percent of job seekers use online resources and information, and 34 percent say the Internet is their most valuable job-seeking resource.
That said, Steven Rothberg, founder of CollegeRecruiter.com estimates that 80 percent of jobs aren't publicly advertised and are found through networking efforts.
This means you can increase your job hunt success odds dramatically if you know how to network effectively. Here are some tips for improving your networking skills to give your job hunt a boost.
Understand the Purpose of Networking
To network effectively, it's important to bear your purpose in mind. Although networking may ultimately lead to a job, it's important to remember that the immediate purpose of networking is to build a relationship, not to get hired on the spot. Most fundamentally, your purpose is to introduce yourself, make a positive impression and exchange contact information so you can follow up and continue to build the relationship you've started. Keeping the relationship in mind will help you focus your activity in the right direction and avoid the unnecessary anxiety of trying to convince someone to hire you on the spot.
You need to establish clear goals to stay focused while networking. After meeting people at a networking event, it's important to follow up to maintain the relationships, so one of your goals should be to exchange contact information with the people you meet.
CollegeGrad identifies some other goals you can pursue while networking. These include making potential employers aware of your job and career goals, creating lines of communication in the job market, learning more about employers in your industry and discovering hidden job opportunities.
Research Your Job Market
To establish networking contacts, you need to know who you're trying to connect with. Doing your homework on potential employers and your job market can make the difference in whether or not your networking efforts result in a job offer. Identify companies you want to work for and find out who to talk to at those companies. You should also learn about the type of position you're interested in, what qualifications are required and how much compensation you can expect.
U.S. News & World Report Money suggests a number of methods you can use to guide your research. These include talking to people from the company you're researching, looking at the company's website, making connections inside the company on LinkedIn, viewing profiles on Twitter and Google Plus and reading company reviews on Glassdoor.
Have a Way to Capture Contact Information
To accomplish your goals, you need to have a way to capture contact information. Asking for business cards is a traditional method that still works, but today's technology gives you more effective ways to obtain contact information. Android Beam, Apple's AirDrop and Windows Phone's Tap to Share make it easy to share contact information automatically. CRM apps like Contacts Journal can also be used to record notes about your networking conversations to help you follow up more efficiently.
Bring Business Cards
While your highest priority should be collecting contact information from potential employers and their representatives so you can actively follow up, sharing your contact details also improves your odds of receiving a job offer. One of the easiest ways to share your information is to bring business cards. Business cards tell employers who you are and how to reach you in a professional way. Digital printing services like Vistaprint make it easy and affordable to create professional business cards.
Practice Your Elevator Pitch
You may only have a few seconds to introduce yourself at a networking event. An elevator pitch is a brief introductory speech designed to be short enough that you could deliver it between floors on an elevator ride. An elevator pitch should answer the question, “What do you do?”
To answer this question quickly and effectively, professional copywriter Bob Bly recommends following a three-step approach.
- Describe the problem you solve by using a question that starts with the phrase, “Do you know …?”
- Explain what you do to solve that problem by using a sentence that begins, “What I do is …”
- Complete your previous sentence by describing what benefit you deliver, using the connecting phrase, “so that …”
Here's an example using Bly's formula.
- Do you know that big data is important for marketing, but there's a shortage of big data professionals?
- What I do is combine big data expertise with knowledge of marketing strategy …
- … so that marketing departments generate more leads online.
Use Bly's formula as a starting point to develop a customized elevator pitch summing up what you have to offer potential employers.
Talking about what you do is part of networking, but listening to what other people say is equally important. Networking is a two-way street, and you should be prepared to give if you want to receive. Express interest in what potential employers and other contacts need by asking questions and listening to the answers. Making a list of questions ahead of time can help you prepare for networking encounters. Some questions you should ask include:
- What do you do?
- How long have you been in business?
- What is your company's greatest hiring need?
Be Prepared to Follow Up
After making a networking contact, it's important to follow up to build the relationship. Arizona State University recommends a few guidelines for following up:
- Take the initiative for following up with priority contacts you met.
- Remind them where they met you and what you discussed.
- Think about ways you can benefit them.
- Be clear about concrete steps you'd like them to take, such as sending you information, scheduling a meeting or referring you to someone.
Create a Follow-up Schedule
It's easier to follow up consistently if you create a schedule. Monster suggests following up with promising contacts by sending them your resume immediately after your conversation. If you haven't heard back from them within three weeks, contact them again to ask if they've reviewed your resume and have any recommendations. Planning and tracking your follow-up activity helps you stay organized and makes sure you don't forget or put it off too long.
Send Thank-you Messages
Last but not least, always remember to say thank you. It is a simple task, but a surprising number of people don't bother doing it, making you more memorable if you do. A good way to say thank you is to send a card. For people who've helped you significantly, say thank you in a special way by sending a small present, like a gift basket. Letting people know you appreciate their help will make them more motivated to keep doing so in the future.