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Give Your Grad the Gift of Networking Skills
I recently spoke with a number of recent grads about their career plans. While all were armed with resumes, and a few had some notion of using social media effectively in their job hunt, all felt uneasy with their networking skills.
These grads also knew that networking is the most effective way of finding a job or career – especially one that's closely suited to the job hunter's personality type, skills, interests and values. Expanding a network takes time and some attention, but imagination and thought it's easy to get a plan in order.
Imagine A Perfect Networking Opportunity
Regardless of whether you're a recent grad, planning a career hunt or change or networking for your business, the components to an effective networking experience are the same. While networking events can be formal, many opportunities crop up under informal circumstances. It`s easy to be prepared.
Be Clear About Your Purpose: What are you hoping to achieve with your networking? In informal situations, your goal might be to introduce yourself and to let others know of your goal, and then to leave your business card or obtain the other person`s contact information.
Know Your Message: It`s important that you know what you want others to know about you. Whether you`re looking for work or new clients, you can`t go wrong with the standard elevator pitch. I use the following format (read my boilerplate at the bottom of this article):
* Hi. My name is... my position is...
* I or my company offers... or my goal is....
* I/We are looking for...
An effective message is in keeping with your personality, goals and values. While it is about you, your message indicates that you have something of value to offer other people.
Prepare Your Support Materials: There`s nothing worse than making a great impression and having nothing to leave with your new contact. You`re never too young to have a business card. A colleague had business cards printed for her son to give to his pre-school and elementary classmates so that their parents could contact her directly to make play-dates. Consider what information is appropriate for a business card - a cell phone number and/or e-mail address allows people to contact you without disclosing more private information.
Listen: You want to deliver an effective message to the right audience – so you need to know who your target audience is and what they`re looking for. Ask. Listen. If you`re hoping to expand your network, listening will help you determine how to do this.
Exchange Contact Information:
Follow Up: The vast majority of people fail to follow up with new contacts. This step is easy to do if you`ve exchanged business cards. A short follow up e-mail demonstrates that you took the meeting seriously and increases your chances of being remembered. If you`re searching for a job or career, strongly consider asking for a short meeting to discuss job openings or company philosophy. You should pay for the coffee!
Add to Your Database: Start a contact database that keeps your job hunting information organized. Find an application that allows you to incorporate notes. This will be an aspect of networking that you`ll revisit as your contact list grows.
Like any skill, networking is an activity that you will master with practice. An effective networking plan addresses more than just what you say, it prepares you with supporting materials and a follow up plan to ensure that your message works for you long after you meet a new contact.
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Elizabeth Campbell Duke operates CampbellDuke Personal Branding, empowering job hunters, career changers and solopreneurs to follow their dreams. Elizabeth offers personal consultations, corporate workshops and speaking engagements for people who want to develop an effective message that will make them stand out! Find more information about personal branding at www.CampbellDuke.com.