How to Network like a Pro

By Hillary Mantis

Everyone says you have to network these days to get a job. And in fact you probably do. 9 out of 10 of you probably dread the thought, or are at least confused by what to do. How can you make the process less painful?

Start Small: Start your networking with someone who isn’t all that high up on your list. Save meeting with the in house counsel of the huge corporation you really want to work for, for when you are an experienced, savvy networker. Try networking with a friend of the family, friend from college, or acquaintance to start, to get you used to how networking conversations flow. Ask for feedback.

Make a List of Questions to Ask: Unlike interviews, you are in charge during a networking interview. Therefore, you must take charge of the meeting, at least initially, by preparing some questions to ask. Open ended questions are best, such as: What would you do if you were graduating from school and looking for a job now? How did you get into your practice area? What are some of the trends and growth areas that you see in your profession? Before you know it, they will be off and running, and hopefully giving you good advice.

Don’t Feel Guilty About It: Commonly, people tell me that they feel like they are “using” people during networking meetings. Don’t. First of all, everyone enjoys talking about themselves, and giving advice. I think most people would genuinely like to help if they can. Secondly, you never know when you might be able to help them with something, later in your career. I’ve seen it happen time and time again, when, believe it or not, the person who once opened the door for you, is later helped by you in some way.
Bring Your Resume:  I believe that you should bring your resume to the meeting. You can offer it up for their “critique,” thereby getting their resume suggestions, but also getting your resume in front of them. It’s always nice for them to have some concrete information about you, whether or not they have a job for you at this moment in time. It will help them remember you. This brings me to my final point:

Follow Up: It would be a great stroke of luck for you if you network with someone and they hire you, or refer you to a colleague who hires you. It does happen. But don’t despair if it doesn’t happen right away. You need to keep in touch with them, so that you stay in the forefront of their mind. Once every couple of weeks or so, you might want to drop them a line. Any new news on your part would be appropriate-let’s say you found out that you passed the bar exam, for example. Also sending links to articles that would interest them, or something you discussed during your networking meeting is a nice touch. Obviously, don’t stalk them. Keep in touch, but at the same time, move on to setting up some other networking meetings.

You can write to Hillary at: altcareer@aol.com

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