Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Networking with Grace and Ease - Part 1

At its core, networking is about developing relationships. It’s also as much about giving as it is getting.  For job seekers, networking can sometimes {incorrectly} be a synonym for asking for work.  It sure takes a lot of pressure off – AND makes networking less intimidating, if job seekers approach networking with the dual purpose of (1) establishing new connections/relationships and (2) keeping an eye out for opportunities to assist/give.

What kinds of questions do I ask other than ‘Do you have a job for me?!?’ you might be thinking.  Below is a list of relationship-building and insight-gathering questions that can inform your job search, support new connections and move you forward towards your goal.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
What’s been one of the most challenging aspects of this week for you?
What brought you to this career path/field?
What do you love about your work?

What are the top 3 bits of advice you have for someone getting into your field?
What makes someone successful in your field?
What’s the best professional/business book you’ve read lately?

What professional associations do you recommend joining?

What’s the first thing you do each day?

What’s the last thing you do before you leave your office each day?

Tell me your best timesaving/organizational tip.
What changes do you see on the horizon that could have major impact on your work/field?
What are the key skills/traits needed for success?
What publications are ‘must reads’ for you?
What kind of clients/customers are your target?  (This one is also an opportunity for you to make introductions)

What key traits do you look for when you’re adding to your staff?

What tips do you have for job seekers in this competitive market?
As you can see, these are big picture kinds of questions. And the answers are competitive intelligence for the job search...handed
to you on a silver platter!  In fact, these answers provide you with all kinds of action steps that can increase your marketability in your target field and provide you with great interview discussion points.

It’s important to note that you’ll probably only have a chance to ask one or two of these in a networking setting.  However, you can leverage this initial meeting by following up and scheduling coffee or lunch.  At this time – conversationally over coffee or lunch – you can ask additional questions to gather more information for your search and future path.

Below is an example of how this might be done:

You:  It’s been so nice speaking with you.  Do you have a business card?

Contact:  Sure, here’s one…

You:  Great!  May I give you one of my cards?  (Yes, jobseekers…business cards are the currency of networking and very worthwhile to obtain by either printing at home using high quality business card stock OR online at a source like vistaprint.com.)

Contact:  Ok.

You:  I’d like to learn more about your work/career/business/etc.  Would you be open to meeting for a coffee or lunch near your office within the next few weeks?  If so, I’ll send you an email with some possible times.

Contact:  Yes, that’s fine.  I’ll look for your email.

In Part 2, I'll share ideas for reaching out to members of your network in a way that is not intimidating and can help to position you as a reliable, relevant and valuable contact for others.

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