Networking to get a job is the new norm. In fact, I networked so much after college that I am still getting unsolicited job offers from people I met over events with delicious pu pus and open bars. Every woman deserves this, but I am aware of the discomfort that many experience while putting themselves out there. I’ve also heard from a lot of clients that they feel like they’re “cheating” when they networking for a job. Newsflash: Networking to get a job is not cheating; it’s the science of how information spreads.
Here are a few tips that will help you authentically network:
1. Prepare an honest elevator pitch. I tell all of my clients to prepare a brief elevator pitch (one or two minutes), which should be relatable, honest and humanizing. Usually, hiring managers start an interview with a simple “tell me about yourself.” It’s your responsibility to have an answer that shines… And you don’t need to be changing the world; you just need to be you. Given that networking is simply a bunch of mini interviews (you never know who you’ll meet), your elevator pitch is even more valuable. This pitch should cover three areas:
a. Storytelling: Share a life story or experience that sheds light on who you are.
b. Career Interest: Your story should link to your career interests or current position.
c. Career goals: Your life experience and career interests pave a path for you to then share your dreams with your listener.
EXAMPLE: I studied abroad in France in 2005 and lived with a family who didn’t speak much English. As I result, I had to learn French… I picked up the language surprisingly fast, which then piqued my interest in learning others! Ever since, I’ve mastered many other languages, which has led me to my career as a linguist at the United Nations. I hope to open a language school someday.
2. Look for one kindred spirit. To those who cringe when you’re told to “get as many business cards as you can,” this strategy is for you. While I do agree that it’s great to network with as many people as possible, I understand that some of you are introverts (Read Susan Cain’s book if you are). In this case, I encourage you to scan the room and look for that one person who seems warm and comfortable to you. Find that kindred spirit and get to know them—there is almost always one in the room. It’s normal to feel out of your comfort zone, but as Heale Donald Walsch says, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” It’s okay if you don’t want to be a human machine who is friends with the entire room.
3. Give without expectation. As I mentioned in my article about the mentality of an excellent networker, it’s important to freely offer people your knowledge and connections. You need to give in order to get, and this is very much so the case when it comes to networking. When you surrender your contacts to others, you inspire them to do the same for you. And if any of your suggestions translate into tangible results for the person—a partnership, job interview, friendship—you’ve created a life-long friend and contact in their career sphere.