By Kathleen Sullivan
People hire people. Making a personal connection and a favorable impression with other people can open doors for your career.
If you have been spending too much time in front of your computer screen, it is time to get out and make your networking personal. Even though it is critical these days to establish a web presence and promote your brand via social media to introduce yourself to recruiters, hiring managers, and contacts in your field, spending too much time focused on your online persona may cause you to neglect one of the most important assets of your career – YOU.
Here are three ways you can market YOU and build relationships that can lead to networking, expanding your career, and even landing a job.
Participate in professional and trade meetings and events: A key mission of professional and trade organizations is to promote that field or industry and build their base of people. Networking is critical to the growth of these groups.
For those organizations in your field or industry or in a profession or industry you want to learn about, you have a ready-made networking opportunity. Get out there and attend an event.
If you are not certain you wish to join an organization, often you can attend a meeting as a guest or a trial member. When you attend an event, be sure to target people you want to meet, have an introduction prepared, and bring business cards.
Ask for cards of the people you connect with, and follow up after the meeting with a message to try and extend the relationship. If you already are a member of a professional or trade group, be an active participant.
Volunteer to serve on a committee or board and help with the planning or support of meetings or conferences. Being an active participant not only develops your relationships with other members, it also gives them the opportunity to see how YOU perform professionally: your teamwork, communication, organizational, and leadership skills in practice.
Schedule face to face networking discussions: Rather than rely on email, LinkedIn, or Twitter to exchange information or conduct networking, ask to schedule a face to face meeting. People are very busy these days and make not have an hour available for a lunch or dinner meeting, but most people can and will take 20 minutes to meet you for coffee. Use this time both to introduce yourself and to get to know the other person.
Be clear and brief about your goal for the meeting and the information or insights you are seeking from the other person. Use this opportunity to sell YOU: smile, make eye contact, and be animated. Most of all, be authentic. The advantage of a face to face meeting is you become a real person who is engaging with another person.
Once someone gets to know more about YOU, he or she is more likely to help you rather than someone they encounter virtually over email or social media. Always be sure to ask how you can assist the other person at this time or in the future, and follow up the meeting with a message thanking him / her.
Volunteer for local community events: Rather than simply write a check, show up and support your community’s civic, social, or fundraising events. Volunteering your time in your community not only contributes to the social good and improvement of your town or city, but it also expands your contacts of people beyond your professional network.
Again, participating in community events is another opportunity for others to see YOU in action, and become aware of your professional skills and commitment. People in your local organizations may not work in your profession or industry, but they often know people who do. If they have the chance to get to know you personally, they may be able to make valuable connections for you.
Managing your career is a complex and time consuming. You may find it easier and faster to spend your efforts at the computer using email and social media to network and look for a job. However, you need to weigh the value of these communications and connections with the impact you can make in person, which takes more time to plan, execute, and maintain.
Making networking personal is an investment in your future: people hire people and they are more likely to hire YOU if they get to know and like you.