How to Become a Master Networker

With the availability of social media and the Internet, the methods of networking to find a job have changed. However, they have really only expanded to include the Internet, because face-to-face meetings with connections still have significant value. The key to networking is understanding that each connection you have has connections. Similar to a spider's web, each level of connections can take you in many directions towards your ultimate goal. The goal of networking is to learn as much as you can from each contact along the journey until you meet the ideal referral--a person who can connect you with the job you want.

While using sites such as LinkedIn are valuable to find additional connections, the reality is that networking works best in person. There is a value in meeting one-on-one with someone, sharing a meal or cup of coffee and asking them for their suggestions and opinions on your job search. If you can gain their trust, they will be more willing to share their intimate acquaintances with you and give you the assistance in connecting with them.

You should start your networking journey by talking to people that you see regularly, however you will probably discover that you need to dig deeply into your own contact list to find the networking gem. One question to ask yourself is how many people have you come into contact with in the last year that can be of assistance to you in your job search. These connections may be people who you have only met one time or rarely see. And it will most likely turn out that it will be a third or fourth-level connection that can get you in the door of the company that you want. Networking is a process that needs to be driven and focused. It can be time-consuming and drawn out.

Areas to look for networking connections are:

Remember that if you would like to meet a specific person, you can often connect to them through LinkedIn first or second-level connections that you already have. If not, you can see who they do know and work to connect to those people, and then ultimately to your specific target.

The interesting aspect about networking is that you can work several components of your network at the same time. For instance, you can continue to search LinkedIn for professionals that you would like to meet while you are currently talking to close friends and relatives to see if they have any referrals for you. When you do get the opportunity to meet with a referral, remember to ask them if they can meet with you for a short period of time--about 10 to 30 minutes--to get their advice and suggestions. It is bad protocol to ask for a job at a networking interview. Instead, ask for suggestions of who might be hiring and what companies are a good fit for you. With these questions, you make clear to your contact that you are searching for a position and you value their opinion. If they feel that you are a good fit and they have an opening, they will tell you.

Before your networking meeting, memorize your elevator speech. That is the description of yourself that you can say in the time that it takes an elevator to go from the ground floor to your destination. An elevator speech is what you should say when someone asks you what you do, or in a job search, what your qualifications are.

If you are new to networking, it is a best practice to practice your interview questions ahead of time in front of a mirror or with another person. Practice will give you confidence and a professional demeanor. You need to maximize each meeting to obtain as much information as you can. Show your appreciation of the fact that they are taking time out of their busy day to meet with you. There is no reason why you cannot write down notes or the questions that you want to ask during a meeting, however it is not recommended that you write down the answers while there. It is better to wait until immediately after the meeting to write down your impressions and notes. This way you can focus directly on your subject during the interview. It is important to let them know you are interested in what they have to say.

Networking is a skill that you can learn. Each interview is a chance to learn to be a better networker and interviewer. It is a good skill that can help you in business at any level, helping you collect a network of professional mentors and colleagues.