The importance of networking for anyone in the job market cannot be ignored, but there is a right way and a wrong way to network. The right way means that you are prepared and know your goals. The wrong way means you’re taking a scattershot approach that doesn’t lead to lasting relationships and relies heavily on luck. To be an effective, focused networker, consider the following tips:
1. Know your goals: Do not get into a conversation with the CEO of your most loved company and find that you cannot articulate what you truly want to do or why you are the best person for the job. Every conversation is potentially a job interview, of sorts, and you have to be ready to give your pitch. If you are not there yet, spend some time soul searching by reading, taking classes, listening to military transition podcasts, and asking questions via informational interviews with people in the industries you are potentially interested in.
2. Leverage your connections: Take a break from your normally busy schedule to consider each of your connections and what they have to offer. Can you approach them to be introduced to someone for an informational interview? Remember to consider what type of connection you are reaching out to before asking too many favors, because you do not want to turn them off. However, if you have a rapport, they should have no problem making introductions, at least virtually. It is time to build your network.
3. Connect in person: Even if you hate networking and are more networking from your computer, consider breaking through your discomfort by attending a professional happy hour, alumni event, or any other form of in-person networking you can find. If a contact has agreed to share their wisdom with you in an informational interview, offer to buy them coffee or lunch rather than converse over the phone. Making that face-to-face connection is much more likely to leave a lasting impression.
Focused networking is not just a job-search tactic, but a way of life. The best networkers never have to conduct formal job searches, because they are so well-connected and attuned to those connections that opportunities find them. Until this is your situation, keep the above-mentioned tips in mind as you build your network.
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