Did you know that approximately 85 percent of all jobs are filled with the help of networking? Long before a job is posted online, it’s often matched up with the perfect candidate internally, through a referral, by a headhunter or other personal, offline connection. So if you’re looking for a job but skipping networking happy hours and business luncheons, you could be sabotaging yourself. In fact, if it can, the groundwork should start long before you’re in need.
“Networking is not a verb. It is a lifestyle,” says Thom Singer, a professional speaker and the host of the “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast. “If you wait until you are seeking a job to get involved in your business community you will rarely find success. To get noticed and have people in line to help you, you first must establish a reputation.”
So what is the best way to “work a room” and lay your groundwork while networking? For advice, we asked Singer as well as The American Genius Founder and CEO Benn Rosales and Chief Operating Officer Lani Rosales, who also throw #BASHH, one of Austin’s best attended monthly business networking happy hour events.
- Approach networking as something you do to help others. “Meet people and look for ways to introduce them to people they need to know (especially people who could hire them or their company),” Singer recommends. “If you are always looking at ways to connect others, they will do the same for you.”
- Understand you’re not alone. A job change is one of the most anxious moments in every person’s life but you’re not alone, says Benn. “Everyone job hunting should know that while they may have lot at stake, the recruiter has targets they have to meet, employers have to get the right person in the role…we’re all human and we’re all under pressure,” he adds.
- Introduce yourself strategically. “When someone asks, ‘What do you do?’ never say ‘I’m unemployed,’” says Lani. “Try your pitch like this: ‘I’m a Front End Developer with extensive experience at startups. I’m actually on the market right now!’ Or maybe, ‘I’ve spent the past 14 years as a Front End Developer, and I’m looking for a senior-level role, if you know of anyone in Austin in need.’” That way, she adds, you’re able to state during an introduction what you’re looking for and, thus, ask for a job without “asking” for a job.
- Research the guest list in advance when possible. “Know who will be there so you know who may be hiring and email a handful in advance, noting that you’re looking forward to meeting them in person,” Benn recommends.
- Print custom business cards. “I’m always impressed when job seekers have job hunting business cards made up. They don’t have to be pretty and you can order them online for free,” says Lani. “It’s memorable when someone has a card that has their name, email, and type of job they’re seeking. It’s rarer than you know.”
- SMILE! “If you’re networking for a job,” says Lani, “Here’s a tip that is easy to implement: smile. Even if it’s unnatural.” Before you roll your eyes, Lani wants you to know the psychology behind this simple tip. “Studies show that people are interested in and attracted to smilers. It’s disarming. Smile when you’re standing alone, smile bigger when you meet someone, smile when they’re talking. You’re showing interest and not letting the butterflies of building desperation reveal themselves.”
- And then KEEP smiling. Lani’s not done yet. “Then, when you’re emailing ‘nice to meet you’ notes the following morning, smile as you type. Smile when you’re on the phone. It all conveys, even if someone can’t see you. Trust me, as a person who it doesn’t come naturally to, it has changed how people perceive me,” she admits.
Keep these tips in mind and you’re sure to up your business connections and your job-hunting prowess. Now get out there and network!
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