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How to (Actually) Network: The Groundwork

In my previous blog, The Advantages of Networking, I discussed why networking is so important and what building a network really means. 

In short, networking is gathering advice, information, and contacts from people with more experience than you who may be in the same field you’re interested in

So, feet to the ground, how do you actually do that?

I’ve compiled a list to help you get started. They are concrete, achievable steps that can be easily accomplished over a few days or even one afternoon. 

Here’s how to start building your network:

  1. Make a list of everyone you know—coworkers, friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors, customers, vendors, school classmates and alumni, consultants, business competitors, etc. No names are off-limits in this stage.
  2. Compile your list. Using some sort of software, like Excel or Google Sheets, is a great way to keep everything organized. At this stage, you should have 50-100 names or so. Eventually, you’ll add email addresses, phone numbers, and other relevant information.
  3. Prioritize your contacts. Not every name you listed is as important to your burgeoning network as the others. The best contacts will have these characteristics:
    • Accessible
    • Successful
    • Knowledgeable
    • Well-known
    • Interested
    • Recently changed jobs
  4. Get organized. Once you start reaching out and scheduling meetings, you’ll want a place to keep all the information you receive. Whether it’s in your Excel spreadsheet, Google Sheet, or elsewhere, designate a place to write down your observations.
  5. Start reaching out. From your shortlist of high-priority contacts (there should be 8-10 of them), begin making calls or emails and ask to set up a meeting with each person. That can look something like this:

“Hi, Jane, I’m calling to ask for your advice. I recently decided to leave XYZ company and am seeking new career opportunities. Since you know me and you know a lot about our industry, I’m especially interested in your comments about my career direction. I would appreciate any advice you could give me. Could we get together for 15 minutes later this week to discuss this? When would be convenient for you?”

And you’re off to the races! I’ll discuss more tips and tricks at a later date, but this should give you a great start. Taking initiative—putting one foot forward—will get you one step closer to your next job opportunity.

I hope this has been helpful. I would be remiss not to mention our comprehensive job search program, which includes even more information on how to network effectively. Feel free to reach us on our website or call 800.680.7768 if you have any questions.

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