When job searching in DC, who you know can be just as important as what you know. Of course your ability to land a job offer depends largely on your skills and experience, but the door to that opportunity and many others opening is likely a result of your network. Regardless of your industry or employment status, expanding your network is one of the best ways to find new opportunities, build business for your organization, or even develop professionally. In-person and online networking are both important and it’s absolutely essential to have the right tools for making your efforts successful. These tips have proven effective for countless people I have worked with and hopefully they will for you as well!
Tips for Successful Networking
#1 – Start with People You Know
Most people are more comfortable referring or recommending someone they are familiar with, so develop those relationships first. Reach out to fellow college alumni, members of clubs or groups you are affiliated with (ie. fraternities/sororities, kickball teams, class members the the gym, etc), or previous co-workers or supervisors (providing you left on good terms). Finding common ground will help you establish an immediate connection. Talk with them about your career goals and professional efforts and see who they might know.
#2 – It’s Not A One-Way Street
Try to make the relationship mutually beneficial. Get to know your contacts, find out their professional goals and personal interests, and pass along related information. If you see an article they might find interesting, pass it along. If they mentioned that they are getting a puppy and you know of a great obedience class, pass it along. These courtesies will make you stand out from the others who are just focused on their own needs and will help you make a meaningful connection.
#3 – Pitch Yourself
Even though it’s not ALL about you, your ability to talk about yourself in a concise and descriptive way is very important when meeting new contacts or describing yourself professionally. Absolutely everyone needs to have an “elevator pitch” prepared. This is a short (30 seconds or less), well-prepared and practiced speech about your background. It should cover the high points of professional background and, if you are job searching, should end with what you are looking for. You want to keep your listeners attention and make them want to learn more!
#5 – LinkedIn
If you are a professional or job-seeker looking to expand your network, LinkedIn is a must. It is an indispensable tool that allows you to search for others with specific backgrounds and connect with them. For example, you can use the advanced search function to find fellow law school alumni or people who have worked for your previous employer. Ask to connect with them, establish common ground and then set up a time to talk on the phone or meet for coffee. This is specifically helpful if you are job seeking. Try using LinkedIn to find people who work for one of your target organizations and also have something in common with you. Establish a connection and set up an informational meeting.
#5 – Get Out
Attend as many events as possible and focus on more than collecting business cards. Online networking is important, but nothing can take the place of meeting someone face-to-face. Search out networking events for professionals in your field, attend free lunch-and-learns or speaking events, follow networking groups on LinkedIn, and sign up for listservs that notify you of happenings around the city (like our newsletter).
Your networking style is unique and everyone’s experience is different. In the end, it’s all about making yourself stand out, establishing meaningful connections, and maintaining those relationships. Figure out what works for you and your specific goals. As you build your skills and knowledge, remember to build your network as well and you will have a strong support system at any point in your career.
Good luck! Keep visiting ClotureClub.com for my next article.
Sarah Ireland is with TRAK Services. She wants to help YOU with professional support in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Have a question? Contact Sarah at Sarah.Ireland@trakservices.com
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