Job Search: The Simplest Job Networking Tip of All

A simple yet effective networking tip to help with your job search even if you’re shy? What could this golden gem be? Is there a magical trick? Some secret sauce only the most savvy networking pros know about?

Yup. Ready or not…here it is.  Career Networking 101. Just say hello. I’m not kidding.

I’m working with a woman who attended a reception this week filled with people in the field she’s trying to get into. Since she told me she’s shy and these kind of situations are a bit intimidating for her, I suggested she see this particular event as merely good practice for the work we’re doing together – and not put any extra pressure on herself.

We worked on two basic goals: (1) Say hello; and (2) Get some cards from the people who were most open to her. And she did both and told me she actually had a good time and was amazed at how much easier networking was for her this time compared to times in the past. To be honest, even I was amazed. I never knew this stuff worked quite so fast! 😉

Some handy-dandy job search networking tips

When you’re at a gathering like this, especially if you’re shy, you might first want to go up to some groups and just stand and listen for a while – just to get warmed up. Listen much. Talk little – at least at first – especially if you’re not one of the regulars. It’s a good way to get your networking feet wet. But since regulars are often engaged in each other and leave little room for networking newcomers, unless you already know someone in the group, it’s probably best to go off on your own and find people standing by themselves.

So what’s the real networking secret?

Just go up to the person, smile, and say hello. Be very present. (That means don’t be thinking about what you should have said or what you’re going to say – just be there now.)

After you say hello…listen. Wait to hear how they respond and then respond back. If the other person seems a bit shy too, just ask a question. Nothing major needs to occur. You don’t have to think of something brilliant or clever or some bon mot you prepared well ahead of time. Just really listen. And then when it’s your turn, just answer. And be real.

The trick to good listening is to actually want to find out about the other person. And the nice part about that is people often find you more interesting if you ask about them and actually find them interesting. Have you ever seen a person networking and even as they ask you a question, they’re already checking out to see who else is around? This is a huge mistake. You never know who a person is or who they know. Treat everyone as a potentially valuable ally. (Personally, I happen to think that’s a good rule to follow in life.)

Every true networking genius knows this

EVERYONE has something interesting about them no matter how they look or what you may have heard about them. And everyone is potentially a contact either now or in the future, so burn no bridges behind you. (Ever meet a secretary at a party who you dissed? Ever try to get an appointment with her boss after that?)

Now back to those networking tips…

So rather than you trying to impress them or worry that you may not be important enough for them…just ask about them. Or see where they aim the conversation after you say hello and take it from there. If you go blank and feel you have nothing to say, ask another question. Do your best to stay in the conversational moment. No agenda. No prepared speeches. No pushing for your own agenda. (Although a short informal-sounding pitch explaining who you are and what you want to do is a very good thing to have when they ask you about yourself.)

And, at the end, if they are involved in what you’re interested in or might in some way be able to help you, politely ask if you may have their card. (It’s good if you have one too, by the way.) And after you leave them, jot a few notes on the card to remind you who the person is and what you talked about.

Why take a card and meet for an informational if there’s no job?

A few days later, you write each person a polite snail-mail note asking if you may meet with them briefly for some advice on how to get into that field or whatever. That’s all. Again no pressure. Even if there’s no job, by pursuing these no-pressure, no-commitment informational meetings (also called informationals), you might get leads that get you to more leads and eventually to contacts with real jobs. It’s slow at times…but you get there.

I met with my client today and had to laugh. For the first 10 minutes she just asked about me. And she really listened well. With energy and a sincere sparkle in her eyes that showed me she was right there with my every word. When I smiled and told her how well she had learned her skills, she looked me in the eyes and told me “But I’m really interested.” And it felt 100% sincere. (Not that I doubt how interesting I am.) Seriously…if I’d a job, I’d have hired her that minute! 🙂

So how do you find people to network with?

As for where to find places to network or other sources of people for those informationals … ask your family and friends, read the trades, read newspapers and magazines, ask former teachers, join alumni associations, go to LinkedIn, attend conferences in the field you want to get into, browse for local events, scour wherever you can for names at companies. Even use your informal pitch at social events. Heck…use it at bus stops if it feels right!

See if you can get at least one short information-only interview to get your networking ball rolling.  Be determined. Be creative. You just need one good informational meeting to start the networking chain. By the way, I think informationals work best if you don’t actually ask them for a job. If they have one, they’ll most likely tell you. If they don’t, they won’t feel pressured.

A great thing I recently heard is that when you ask for help, most of the time people will try in some way to give you that help. And once they do, it’s like they’re taking stock in your dream and will continue to want to help – or at least be there to encourage you. I love that!

And as I mentioned, don’t forget to at least casually talk about your dream quest to everyone you know or meet. I got a life-changing job by talking about it to anyone I could…and finally mentioning it to someone I met at a barbecue. He knew someone who knew someone…and voila! I had my new job.

If you’re job hunting and people can see how much life you show when you talk about your dream or things you care about related to your career quest, eventually you’ll find people who want to help and who will add their own energy to yours. And that’s why networking can be so powerful – and so effective in landing a job. Nowadays, it’s your best bet.

And it all starts with “Hello.”

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. It really is amazing how knowing that you can just say “hello” without anything after that removes that “what next?” block.

  2. I spent years terrified that I couldn’t create and manage the entire conversation perfectly on my own. 🙂 Took me a long time to realize this “trick”.

    Thanks for stopping by, TEB!

    Ronnie Ann

  3. I actually tried this today. I’m pleasantly surprised at how “easy” it was!

  4. I love that! Thanks for letting us know.

    We all try so hard, we sometimes forget how much we have going for ourselves just the way we are. Thus the less-is-more approach. Most people react well to someone who just says “hello” and then, if there’s a lull, asks about them and sincerely listens. This works in jobs, in networking, and even in dating!

    Glad I helped give you a pleasant surprise, Mr. X. 🙂

    Ronnie Ann

  5. Turns out that saying “Hi” and listening that day turned into the opportunity to work on a task force that was writing essays to make a book. Unpaid, but for an academic, as good as gold. (Whoops! There goes some of my anonymity!)

  6. Wow TEB! That’s great news!! I’m so proud of you – in so many different ways.

    Glad you said hello to me too. 🙂

    Ronnie Ann

  7. I have started hospitality and nervous how I am going to h;andle it. I need to gain experience such as sandwich making etc can you help me thanks.

  8. Hi Di!

    Since I have a virtual cafe, I can only teach you how to make a virtual sandwich. 😉 But if you really need help and no one is training you, this is a time to watch carefully, ask good questions, listen intently, and ask for help from people who know how. No time to be shy now.

    Good luck!

  9. When I first moved to Toronto and met people at all manner of events, I found that within the first minute they always asked what I came to call “The Toronto Question”:

    What do You Do?

    This was invariable a precursor to trying to sell me something – product, time, service or advice. Beyond that they had little interest in me and any interest I took in them they took to be interest in what they were selling.

  10. I totally get what you’re saying, Toronto. On the other hand, part of the art of networking (and all sales) is to continue until you find someone you click with. And the real key to networking is being the first to ask a question and then to be the best listener ever! 😉

    Ronnie Ann

  11. I really enjoyed your write up and I will use some of the tips at a meeting I am attending tomorrow.

    Great advice.

  12. Thank you Musikana! Hope the meeting goes well and the tips helped – even if only a little. Sometimes that’s all it takes. 😉

    – Ronnie Ann

  13. Ronnie,

    Hello!

    Loved this article! Great job providing very specific and actionable ideas to make networking easier.. That first hello can sometimes be the hardest- but it shouldn’t be.

    Your advice for following up individually with each client is right on target.

    I will share this with my Twitter audience.

    Best,
    Marci Reynolds
    J2B Marketing

  14. Thanks Marci! Much appreciated. So funny because I ran across a blog written by someone I was thinking I might want to get to connect with and as I was struggling for the right words, I simply wrote “I just wanted to say hello!” And then a few more words flowed out of me quite naturally and next thing I know we’ll be getting together.

    So not only thanks Marci…but Hello!

    – Ronnie Ann

  15. As a Voc Reh Counselor, the story I tell is about an informal exercise that a famous psychologist did where he sat in Central Park and said “hi” to 100 people. Some people ignored, some reacted with disdain, some said hi, a few said a little more and at least one person sat down and had a conversation… So be a little brave- you may get 99 “no’s” but you only need one “yes”. Keep looking for the “yes.”

  16. Egg zackly! Nice story that makes the point perfectly. Thanks Peggie.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  17. Thanks for the handy tips! I have a networking opportunity with other professionals in my industry coming up. I know that people from an organization where I recently applied will also be in attendance. I still haven’t heard back from this organization. If I happen to run across these people, should I mention that I applied for a position in their department? Would this reflect poorly on me because I’m representing my organization at this seminar? I’m not sure how to approach this situation.

  18. DreamWorker55 says:

    Hello? I’m so shy you can’t believe, I’m trying to get out there and meet new people because I’m told that networking can really be helpful in finding a job; and that’s what I’m trying to do. I think I might need some more pointers…

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Remember, it all begins with a simple, “Hello”! So, start with the people you know!

      You’ll discover that just getting in touch with the people you already know — tapping into your existing network — will be a BIG help for your job search and also build your confidence.

      You can meet new people through the people you already know, if you want to (be brave).

      Good luck with your job search!
      Susan

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