For all job seekers, ranging from entry-level to experienced professionals, one of the best ways to find a job is through networking. If you are well-connected and have a large network of professional contacts – great! However, if you have a smaller group of contacts that you need to expand, you may have to get a little more creative in your networking efforts.
Though it may feel a bit awkward and require you to step outside of your comfort zone, one of the best ways to do this is to start reaching out to your friends, classmates, and other acquaintances. So, how do you successfully forge a professional relationship with a friend, or someone who does not know your work, you ask? There is an art to this type of networking, and it requires balance, authenticity, and mutual respect. Next time you aim to have a professionally-geared conversation with a peer, friend, or acquaintance, maximize your chances at success by prepping yourself with these tips:
Consider your presentation: How you present yourself is tantamount to how professional you will appear to your acquaintance, especially if they haven’t seen or heard from you in a while. In an attempt to keep the conversation more casual, it may become easy to get too caught up in small talk or a discussion about your frustrating job search. However, venting about your endless search detracts from the image you want to portray as a highly capable, results-oriented professional. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect them to? In order to represent yourself as a dedicated job seeker, show up looking polished, armed with a clear set of goals, and copies of your resume. You are there to prove to your peer that you are worthy of their professional recommendation, so show them how seriously you take your job search and career goals.
Consider your talking points: To ensure your meeting is successful, your delivery is key. Before you meet, think about your desired outcome of the conversation, and how to best phrase what it is that you want. Once the conversation is underway, tactfully open up about your job search and explain that you would welcome any suggestions, contacts, and general help they can give you.
Know what to say when they can and can’t help you: If your contact thoughtfully offers to help, that’s great! Be sure to communicate your gratitude, and reassure them that the exchange is mutual should they ever find themselves in your position. On the other hand, if your contact doesn’t seem to have any connections or advice directly relating to your career path, or know of any organizations that have opportunities for you, open up the parameters of your request for general job search information.
Also, let them know that you are truly looking for an opportunity to connect with anyone who can help you in a professional capacity, whether it’s a potential mentor or someone who can give you constructive criticism on your resume. After all, part of networking is about building new connections, so be open to meeting new people.
Know that it’s worth asking: Perhaps, one of the most challenging aspects of networking with a friend is simply getting the courage to ask for help, but don’t let this hold you back! After all, the cornerstone to effective networking lies in your ability to build an organic conversation with a contact, so if you already connect with someone on a personal level, you’re one step ahead. If you remember to be forthcoming, genuine, and goal-oriented, you can expect the conversation to go well.