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Networking Tips

Whileit would make the introverts, the meek, the shy, and the novicesawfully happy if the newspaper classifieds contained all job openings,that's simply not the case. In fact, some of the best jobs aren'tlisted anywhere except in the mental catalogues of CEOs and managers.

So how do you apply for jobs that aren't advertised anywhere, thatexist only in the seemingly inaccessible minds of working America'smovers and shakers? You meet people who might have insight into yourjob search. You talk to people who know people who could help you out.You chat it up with strangers at parties. You cold-call people you'veread about in the newspaper. You write cordial letters to prominentcommunity leaders. You cultivate an arsenal of contacts. In short, younetwork.

Think about networking as a game, as a sport, as a personal challenge. Below are some strategies for success.


1. Brainstorm for Contacts.

Think of everyone who could possibly serve as a contact. Don't limityourself to people who could clearly help you out - friendly,accessible people in unrelated fields often have contacts they would behappy to share with you. Also, people who, through either work orvolunteer activities, have contact with a diverse crowd can beextremely helpful. To get you started with your list, here are somesuggestions:

Family friends Local politicians
Relatives Journalists
Neighbors Business executives
Professors Non-profit directors
Alumni Your physician
Former employees Your hair dresser
Former co-workers Prominent community members
Public relations officials Members of professional organizations
Religious leaders  

2. Where the Contacts Are - Tried and True Places to Network

Local alumni association Conventions
Class reunions Club meetings
Cocktail parties Internet list-servs
Fundraisers Volunteer opportunities
Business conferences Continuing education classes

3. Be Prepared

Networking is a little like planning a political campaign. While it'sessential that you are honest and relaxed, you should not wing it. Justas politicians think about what they tactically need to accomplish,convey, and gain when they make an appearance or give a speech, youshould approach networking opportunities with a game plan. Before youconfidently and charmingly sashay into a business conference room, adinner party, or group event, do your homework. Find out who will bethere, or do your best to list who you think will probably be present.Then decide who you would most like to meet. When you have your list ofpotential contacts, thoroughly research their work and theirbackgrounds and then make up some questions and conversationalstatements that reflect your research. And finally, think criticallyabout what your goals are for your networking function. Whatinformation do you want to walk away with? What do you want to conveyto the people you meet? But, as is always true, it's important to beflexible and to perceive opportunities you didn't plan to confront.

4. Networking Knows No Boundaries

Business conferences, informational interviews, college reunions, andcocktail parties are obvious networking opportunities - you expect towalk away with a few business cards and some recommendations forpotential rolodex entries. But the reality is that invaluable contactsand enviable opportunities often surprise us. Good networkers areflexible people who approach connection-making as a fluid enterprisethat extends far beyond hotel conference room walls. You never know whowill step onto the adjacent elliptical trainer at the gym; who will beparked behind you in an interminable grocery store line; who will sitnext to you on an airplane; or who will be under the hair dryer next toyou at the beauty salon. Don't let these opportunities pass you by.While it may have been sheer luck that you bumped into an affable CEO,your savvy approach to networking can turn a banal exchange into apivotal moment in your career path. Always be ready to make a contactand exchange business cards. And remember, don't hesitate to networksomeone who has no obvious connection to your ambitions: Your newcontact may be able to give you relevant names of his or her friendsand colleagues.

5. Follow Up

Afteryou meet with a contact, it is absolutely essential to write a thankyou note. Tell your contact how much he or she helped you, and refer toparticularly helpful, specific advice. Everyone - even the mosthigh-level executive - likes to feel appreciated. In addition toimmediate follow-up after a meeting or conversation, keep in touch withyour contacts. This way, they may think of you if an opportunity comesup, and they will also be forthcoming with new advice. It's importantto stay on their radar screens without being imposing or invasive. And,of course, if you get that new job, be sure to tell them and thank themagain for their help.

6. What Goes Around Comes Around

Ifyou want to be treated with respect, treat others with respect. If youwant your phone calls and email missives returned, call and write backto the people who contact you. If you want big-wigs to make time foryou, make yourself available to others whom you might be able to helpout. It's that simple

The higher up you climb in theprofessional world, the more you'll find that everyone knows everyoneelse. Thus, if you're impolite, curt, condescending, or disposed toburning bridges, you'll cultivate a reputation that will serve as aconstant obstacle. Remember - the people who seem little now will oneday be running companies and making decisions. If you treated them withkindness and respect when they were green, they'll remember and returnthe favor later.

7. Make It Easy For Your Contacts

Whenyou call, meet with, or write to a potential contact, make it as easyas possible for them to help you. Explain what you specifically want,and ask detail-oriented questions.

Forexample, "I'm looking for jobs in arts administration. Do you knowanyone who works at the Arts Council? May I have their names and phonenumbers? May I use your name when I introduce myself to them?" Anotherentrée into a productive conversation is to solicit career tips andadvice from your contact. Most people love to talk about themselves. Byasking for your contact to offer valuable insight from his or herpersonal experiences and successes, he or she will feel important andrespected. Who doesn't like to feel like an expert?

Besure to avoid making general demands, such as, "Do you know of any jobsthat would be good for me?" This sort of question is overwhelming andit puts an undue burden on your contact.

8. Stay Organized

Keep a record of your networking. Whether you do this, it's important tokeep track of your contacts. Make sure your system has plenty of roomfor contacts' names, addresses, phone numbers, companies, job titles,how you met them, and subsequent conversations you've had with them.

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