In fact, it’s a non-negotiable activity in our social landscape. It doesn’t matter if you have a job, are looking to change careers, or are currently unemployed, networking is as valuable as it is misunderstood. Everyone knows they should network, but a lot of novice professionals (and even some seasoned ones) are unsure exactly how to go about it.
|Networking takes time, but there are effective, time-saving ways to network|
The short answer is: of course you do! There are effective, time-saving ways to network that will build your brand, form your support net, and give you more options than you thought possible for your career.
1. Identify/Target: Before you start networking, you have to figure out what your goals are. Are you looking to advance your current career? Change to a related field? Trade in for a new career entirely? Don’t waste your time networking and building contacts in a field you don’t enjoy.
Take a career assessment today and ensure you’re focusing your effort and time in the right direction. Then, take look at the contacts you already have, as well as the ideal contacts you wish you had, and draw up a list of those people who may be useful to your career.
Who would be most useful? Think about friends who work in your industry, or are well-connected in your community. Then, think of the thought-leaders and industry professionals and ask them for a brief meeting. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll hear, ‘yes.’
2. Prepare in Advance: Preparing in advance, including the list you just drew up, will ensure that you’re not wasting your time. Draw up a list of objectives and questions for your networking meetings well ahead of time. You don’t have to make it an interview—just think of three to five useful questions, conduct a little background research, and you’ll look like a much more serious job-seeker.
3. Don’t take more than 30 – 60 minutes: Obviously, if you’re meeting a friend for lunch, you don’t have to run out in half an hour. However, if you’re meeting with an industry professional in their office, make them a promise to get in and get out in 30 minutes—then stick to it. Because you’ve prepared with your questions and needed advice ahead of time, this won’t be tough, and it will be much appreciated by busy pros.
4. Follow up: This easy step takes almost no time at all, and yet is a perfect way to make yourself memorable. Leave behind business cards and be sure to send a follow up thank you card or e-mail. Summarize what you discussed, thank the person for their time, and leave a positive impression in two minutes flat.
Networking isn’t difficult, or even that time-consuming; it just takes some targeting, planning, brevity, and follow-through. Even if you have a job you enjoy, networking can be a great safety net, and can lead to places you didn’t even know your career could take you.
If you’re still not sure where to put your effort, take MAPP’s completely unique career test, to be matched to over 900 careers.
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