Navigating the professional world looking for your next career move can be a scary endeavor, especially during a turbulent job market. Whether you’re looking to land your first job or up-level your career, you need to invest in your professional network. At FullContact we believe networking is not a verb. The goal isn’t to meet as many people as possible – it’s about meaningfully connecting with people. Recently our CEO’s networking recommendations for graduates entering the workforce were featured in USA Today. Below are our additional thoughts for those making their way through the working world.
Fully connecting is the catalyst to growing an awesome network
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of jobs are found through networking. By attending networking events, you may have already begun to lay the groundwork for your advancement in the workforce by getting on the radars of prospective colleagues and employers. However, just meeting people is not enough. Fully connecting with each person you meet is a crucial step to landing your dream job. Of course follow up is important, but staying on someone’s radar isn’t about how you follow up. It’s about how you leave the conversation – with a strong initial connection that has meaning every time you follow up.
Be genuine in your interactions – Give to get
If a meeting is set up in advance, it’s important to perform your due diligence and learn as much as you can about the people you’re meeting with so you can better understand how you can help them. It’s far better to understand what your contacts want than to know what you want from your contacts. I like to use the philosophy of “Give before you Get.” Simply finding common ground and being able to relate is overrated. Instead, be genuinely interested in the people you meet. Learn about what they like and what their interests are so you can listen to them, not so you can pretend to be like them.
When you genuinely connect with people chances are your interactions will be valued and you will be remembered. By fostering your network you can stay top of mind when an opportunity presents itself through a contact.
Sometimes opportunity comes knocking for you on someone else’s door
Whether you’re hoping to convert an introduction into a job or leverage a former employer as a future reference, it’s critical to make memorable positive impressions. Even if you don’t get the job after an initial meeting, an employer could refer you to someone else who’s hiring now or in the future. You might question why an employer would help you with an introduction after you fail at an interview and it could simply boil down to them liking you or wanting to help the people in their own professional network.
Be the architect – Build solid bridges throughout your professional life
The best candidates are always found through networks, not job postings. People want to hire people who are introduced to them through their networks and have a good reputation. Your reputation as a candidate for a job is based on your experience and what other people know about you and your experience. Use your address book to keep track of the employers you meet and the conversations you have so you can follow up and reach out periodically and ask if they know the people you have talked to and anyone else who may be hiring someone with your level of experience.
Thoughtfully curate and own your connections
By far the biggest secret to networking is owning your connections. When you meet someone, put their contact information in your own personal address book, store it securely, and keep it up to date and synced everywhere. Don’t rely only on social networks to keep you connected. Build an address book entry for every contact and spend the time to collect all social profile pages, phone numbers, emails, physical addresses, job titles, photos, notes, tags, birthdays and anything else about that person. Then, keep in touch and keep the information up to date so you can stay fully connected for a lifetime. Technology can make this type of “contact management” a minimal effort and allow you to focus on being awesome with people.
When you genuinely connect with people chances are your interactions will be valued and you will be remembered.
I like to store spouse’s name, children’s names and birthdates in my contacts. This often comes up casually in conversation. The next time I meet someone, I might casually ask “How do you like the new job – you’ve been there about six months now, right?” The other person feels special, he or she feels like you care, and your are more likely to be fully connecting in your future conversations. Personalization goes a long way. A few years ago, I casually mentioned someone’s personal assistant’s name in conversation, saying “I wonder how John feels about that!” and the other person stopped and said “Wait, you remember my assistant’s name? Wow!” I had cemented a lifelong connection and it helped our new relationship develop.
Be authentic. Be original. Be supportive. Be awesome with people.
Being awesome with people isn’t just the FullContact motto – this idea lies at the core of building an extraordinary personal and professional network. Once you understand how valuable fully connecting with people can be, it’s hard not to stay on someone’s radar. Check out this blog post for more tools to help you foster your network.
Do you have any tips for professionals looking to cultivate their network and develop their career? Sound off in the comments section.