Before you can network better, you’ll need to do the digging deep targeting, research and personal branding work to uncover what things about you make you valuable to your target employers.
With this knowledge you’ll do a better job of communicating your good fit qualities as you network.
One important aspect of good networking is banking on your stellar reputation or personal brand, which should always surround you, and precede you with networking contacts. To put this in place, follow my suggestions below for top-of-mind personal branding on LinkedIn.
How Does Good Networking Work?
You’ll network better if you take this advice to heart:
“Networking is just having a conversation. It’s not about asking for a job or a favor.”
Communication and gender bias experts Andrea Kramer and Al Harris confirmed what I noted above:
“Truly effective networking is not about trying to sell a product (usually yourself) to as many people as possible in the hopes they will refer customers or clients to you, make introductions, facilitate transactions, or pass on information.
Genuinely effective networking involves establishing mutually interesting, satisfying, and productive relationships with a limited number of strategically selected people. When people start to view networking in this more limited, focused, self-controlled way, they typically start seeing it as an engaging, enjoyable, and highly valuable activity.”
Here’s their advice to build a robust network:
Identify worthwhile core connections (12-18 people should be enough)
“Include people who can provide you with information, ideas, and expertise not otherwise available to you; people willing to be mentors and sponsors; people who will give you a candid sounding board and honest feedback; and people who can provide emotional support and bolster your sense of self-worth.”
Network effectively virtually
“Use every work-related interaction—whether by email, a messaging app, phone, or video conference—to present yourself as a person with presence, talent, and warmth.
One tried-and-true tip: Ask someone you know to introduce you. Look to professional associations, alumni groups, or service organizations in which you have a bevy of connections to start building new relationships. When you’ve found someone you’re interested in speaking with, take the initiative to invite them to a virtual coffee date. Another particularly effective way to connect with people you don’t know is to ask them for an interview for your blog, webcast, podcast, or article.”
With remote work more the norm, virtual networking becomes more and more important. In-person networking may happen less often. So how do you make compelling connections without being in the same room? How can you actually engage with people enough to network successfully?
You get busy on LinkedIn. Get in touch with your existing network and build it out with new people.
LinkedIn is designed to facilitate networking. Here are some of the ways to do that, noted in my post, How to Network on LinkedIn Like a Pro:
Build out your LinkedIn profile and get active
- Make sure your profile is robust, with plenty of information to help people see who you are and how you operate.
- Be ever-mindful of keywords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
- Get some personality into your profile to generate chemistry.
- Add a photo or headshot to your profile.
- Add visuals (video, infographics, images, etc.) to your profile.
- Invite various people to connect: recruiters, other hiring professionals and employees at your target companies, industry influencers, colleagues, associates, friends, etc.
- Customize your invitations to connect.
- Engage people via updates, Pulse articles and LinkedIn Groups.
Practice “Give to Get” Networking
Don’t ask for, or expect, a favor from someone you’ve just met. You wouldn’t want them to do that to you, right?
Career strategist Tim Denning echoes my advice, which works with both virtual and in-person networking:
“The biggest mistake people make when networking is asking for something too early.
The mantra that works for me is this: ‘Give and expect nothing. Then give some more.’
This simple shift in psychology is game-changing. It will turn you into a social butterfly without even trying. Trying to have a conversation with an end goal in mind distracts you from having a real conversation.”
His other suggestions include:
- Shut up about yourself
- Get good at icebreakers
- Share personal stories
- Pay attention to the person who is silent
- Be ridiculously kind
Ask for an Informational Interview
The only way to uncover the goldmine of “hidden” executive jobs that are never advertised is through networking.
Job search social media expert Hannah Morgan explains:
“An informational meeting is a way to get a conversation with someone you’d like to meet. There are two types of people you will want to meet with for an informational meeting – company insiders and industry experts.
Using your target company list, identify alumni, mutual connections, and even people you know who work for companies you are interested in.
Your purpose for wanting to meet with company insiders is to learn about the company. Employees are able to provide you with the inside scoop on what it’s like to work there and will also be the first to hear about new opportunities.
You also want to meet with people who can share their expertise about an industry or occupation. They may not work for a company you are interested in, but the information they share about trends in the field will be incredibly useful to you.”
Networking to Referral to Hire
Informational interviews help you network better because they help you position yourself for referrals within your target companies.
Most companies have employee referral programs, which only happen through networking. Employees are rewarded for referring qualified candidates for jobs. These programs benefit everyone involved. The company, employee and referred candidate all win.
Employers love good referrals because, among other things, they:
- Save them money over advertising openings
- Fill jobs quicker
- Get a better quality candidate
- Experience quicker onboarding
- Improve retention