We all know looking for a new job can be a daunting task. From deciding what you want to do, to researching companies, developing a strong resume and finding and connecting with the right contacts – the entire process can be overwhelming. However, attending a variety of networking events (often the most important part) can actually be fun! Below are five networking tips to help you connect with people who may not only help you in your job search but could possibly turn into great friends.

1 – Before You Walk Through the Door, Determine Your Networking Goals –
Networking is most effective when you have specific employer targets and career goals. You may think you’ll be more successful if you leave yourself open to all the possibilities, but the reality is this “openness” can create a level of ambiguity that may not get you anywhere. If you are too generic in your approach with a contact, you could potentially lose that networking contact and opportunity since they will most likely not understand what you actually want. Asking for specific information, leads, or an interview is much more focused and easier for the networking source. Also, focus on finding people that are relevant to your goals and interests.

2 – Early Bird gets the….Networking Contact!
It’s almost counter-intuitive, but showing up early to a networking event is a much smarter strategy than getting there on the later side. As a first attendee, you’ll notice that the crowd may be calmer and quieter – and people are still mingling and perhaps open to new introductions. It’s also easier to find other people who aren’t involved in an in-depth conversation yet.  Also, with networking events that include a program or speaker session, the first 30 minutes of the event will be for networking before the program begins.  By showing up 15-20 minutes late, you have missed out on a critical networking opportunity.

3 – Be Friendly, Helpful…and Smile
Networking is a two-way stree t. The more value you offer, the more it will come back to you many times over. Focus your networking efforts on providing relevant information and insight to the people you contact. Everything from sharing knowledge regarding current events to books to a great restaurant you recently visited, will help create good will and possibly a common interest with a networking contact.  Building your network is the same as building friends. Be interested in what they are doing and offer friendly ideas and thoughts when appropriate. Also, don’t forget the simple power of a smile. By smiling, you’ll put your nervous self at ease, and you’ll also come across as warm and inviting to others.

4 – Stop and Listen. Don’t Pitch!
Networking is about building relationships, not “making the sale.” A critical part of building any relationship is showing sincere interest in the other party.  If you are a naturally thoughtful person, you are likely to be an excellent listener. When you first start speaking with someone, don’t jump into an awkward pitch about your skills. Ask the person about their interests and why they are at the particular event. Invest time in learning about them vs. talking all about you. This will be incredibly beneficial.

5– Networking by Numbers
For those who work better with metrics, give yourself a numerical goal. In addition to attending scheduled networking events, try to contact one person per day. Sending an email or making a quick call will only take a few minutes and you will be surprised (and pleased) with how rapidly your network will grow. Not everyone is going to get back to you, but you’re bound to make significant progress. If you are at an event, set up a specific goal for the number of people you want to meet and reward yourself when you meet that goal.

Keep in mind, these are just the first five! There are many tips out there. Please contact KNF&T for additional guidance and recommendations to help you get the job you want!