Professional networking is THE most important but often underestimated step in the job search process.
Networking enables you to expand your professional contacts and ultimately helps you find a job.
Sure, sending resumes to employers is still an important step in your job search, but networking plays a critical role in your job search. According to U.S. News, despite the explosion of online job posting sites, more than 70% of jobseekers got hired through professional networking. Surprising, isn’t it?

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But where can you find networking opportunities?
What should you talk about?
How can you can develop a relationship further?
Let’s go through by each question.

 

Where can I find networking opportunities?

There are plenty of opportunities around you.
Companies you are interested in often hold happy hours, talk sessions, or other events and there are many opportunities for you to network. Eventbrite is always a place to go for any kind of events.
If you want to build a network in a specific field of interest or with specific type of professionals, try Meetup.
Join groups based on your interest and network with the members.
For example, if you are interested in Social media marketing position, you can join Social media marketers group, and start building your network from there.
Most Meetup groups meet regularly, (once a week, once a month depending on groups) so try to show up as many times as possible and show your interest.
You’ll learn from people in your space and meet potential employers.

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But remember, you don’t necessarily have to go to networking events in order to network.
It could be in the line at coffee shop, in an elevator, your neighbor, on the subway, anywhere really.
Sometimes networking outside of networking events might be easier. So look around and start the conversation!

 

How should I start a conversation?

Especially for introverts, talking to strangers is not the easiest thing to do.
Trust me, I have attended many networking events but I still feel nervous and awkward at networking events.
It might take some practice before you get the feel of how to behave at networking events.
But don’t worry, everybody feels the same way.
Start a conversation casually by introducing yourself, and ask some common questions, such as “What brought you here today?” “What do you do?” or “How did you end up at <company he/she is working for>?” as icebreakers.
When you get used to it, you can go one step ahead to approach someone working at the company of your interest.

For example, you may start the conversation like this.

“I see (from the name badge) that you work at ABC company. I’m very interested in your company and thinking of applying to — position there. Do you mind if I ask what you do at the company?”

Once you start a conversation, the rest will naturally follow.
Everyone at networking events is there to meet, so don’t hesitate to talk to strangers!

 

How can you develop a relationship?

You attended a networking event, and talked to some professionals. Great.

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It is very important that you make sure you get contact information before you leave.
That being said, DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR BUSINESS CARD to networking events!
You want to make sure that you can reach out to the people you met to develop your relationship later.
If you forget your business card, write down your full name, email address and LinkedIn profile on a paper or card at the event. Then people who want your contact details can simply take a picture of your contact details instead.
You can ask for contact information with lines like this.

“I had a great time talking to you tonight and would love to learn more about what you do at ABC company. Could I get your contact info? I would love to meet you for coffee and continue our conversation.”

And make sure that you follow up after the events through email or LinkedIn message with a thank you note, any follow up question you might have, or invitation to coffee if you want to meet with him/her again.
The person you talked to might have met many people at the event, so follow up with them latest by the end of the next day to make sure he/she remembers you.
It’s also great if you can personalize the message to remind him/her about what you talked about.

Again, networking takes practices.
You might feel super nervous and uncomfortable at first, but you will get better.
The more you network, the easier it will be, but you need to keep doing it.
Any thoughts? Leave us comments below.

Happy networking!