1. Prepare Ahead
Schedule appointments ahead of time. Have a resume ready along with your contact information (some people even have business cards made). Be sure you have proofread your resume prior to making copies! You will be processing a great deal of information, so create a system to be organized.
2. Present Yourself Well
Always stand when you introduce yourself. If you’re wearing a nametag, point to it. Use a firm handshake and make eye contact. First impressions can be lasting impressions.
3. Always Be Ready to Give Your Pitch
You must be equipped to market yourself on the spot, no matter where you are. Know and be ready to communicate your strengths and what you can bring to the table. Prepare and practice your 30-second commercial.
4. Ask Questions and Listen Actively
Don’t be afraid to start a conversation. Ask open-ended questions that facilitate conversation. Remember that networking is about building relationships, not just making contacts. People want to know that you have heard and appreciate their experience and what they have to say.
5. Ask for Help
It’s likely that, at one time or another, the person you are networking with was a college student, just like you. Asking for advice never hurts. Get insight from someone who has been through the same process as you. People usually like to be asked for help – it means that you value their opinion and see them as a good source of information. It’s helpful to clearly tell those that you contact that you don’t expect them to have a job for you, but rather you are seeking information and advice.
6. Expand Your Online Presence
Making connections online can be an effective networking strategy. LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, and other social media sites offer great ways to learn insider information about your career path and connect with individuals and professional associations. Maintaining an active profile on these sites will keep you up-to-date with the most current information about the field, including hiring trends and job leads.
7. Be Conscious of Your Digital Image
It is important to be aware of your online presence while using online networking tools. Some employers may actually check your social media sites as part of the screening process. Clean up your online identity by setting accounts on social networking sites, like Facebook, to private and/or removing questionable material, such as blog entries, photos, quotes, comments and applications. Be sure to present a positive online image. You may want to do a Google search on your name to see what results are generated and adjust your privacy settings accordingly.
8. Do Your Research
Take time to research the employer ahead of time. Preparing in advance will help you ask more intelligent questions and learn more in-depth information about the person, the work environment and the organization. Ideally, this will help you conduct a conversation that is comfortable and show that you are interested.
9. Stay in Touch with Your Network
The networking process does not end when the career event or job fair is over. Be sure to give and receive contact information. Following up with your network continues the relationships and preserves those connections. If you are on LinkedIn, for example, personalize the note field in the invitation to remind the connection of where you met.
10. Grow Your Network
Your network is a living thing and should always be evolving, even after you have found a job. You never know when you may need to call upon your networking contacts. Networking will always be essential to breaking into that “hidden job market,” so do not abandon it. Be sure to promptly follow-up on information passed along to you by your contacts.