Despite dramatic changes in job searching due to today's technology, one thing remains the same: people get people jobs! Studies remain fairly consistent showing that a minimum of 75 percent of positions is obtained by way of personal referral. Moreover, this percentage grows even greater for older workers, for those in higher-level positions and when the job market is tight. So -- there's no way around it -- you have got to get out there and network!
Although the Internet is a valuable tool for making contacts, you'll want to do the bulk of your networking in person. A friendly face and warm greeting will naturally build a far stronger rapport than a LinkedIn connection, an email or even a voice over the phone. People are more likely to go out of their way to help (and especially to recommend) someone whom they've met face-to-face.
Plus, there are added benefits to connecting with others. In addition to the potential for acquiring leads and referrals, networking in person provides you with the opportunity to meet new people with fresh ideas. Attending industry events, job search groups, classes and other venues all allow you to socialize. And getting out and about is the best antidote for feeling isolated and glum. A job search is difficult enough but it's next to impossible when you're depressed.
Author, speaker, and coach, Susan RoAne, recently published the Silver Anniversary Edition of her groundbreaking book, How to Work a Room. In it, she gives several tips on how to turn a roomful of strangers into contacts who can increase your resources and opportunities.
Here is a list of ideas you can use to support your job search goals:
- Learn to approach an event with purpose, energy and enthusiasm. Especially when you're looking for work, you'll want to display a positive and upbeat attitude whenever you're interacting with others.
- Although you're an attendee, consider yourself a host/hostess. If you focus on those around you and seek to make other people feel comfortable, you'll naturally begin to establish relationships.
- Begin the conversation with a line that will break the ice and initiate a ready-made interaction. For example, "What brings you to this event?"
- Dress professionally and appropriately for the particular venue. And don't forget to wear your best asset: a warm and engaging smile.
- Come prepared to make contacts but, most of all, enjoy yourself!
Another critical point to consider before working a room is your elevator pitch. Unless you're attending a formal networking event, it's usually best to start off with a 10-second attention-grabber... something rather light, yet memorable. When asked what you do, you might reply with, "I'm the go-to gal for anything computer-related." Or, consider this snappy example from one of my clients. She was a buyer at a department store and used the line: "I shop with other people's money." (You can bet that statement served to elicit interest and had people wanting more.) So come up with your own unique and attention-grabbing one-liner. Then, once your audience is intrigued, you can deliver your more formal elevator pitch.
And finally, don't forget to follow-up! Working a room is only successful if you create ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships. Ask for business cards and email your new connections with additional information on topics you discussed, articles that would interest them, or simply suggest meeting for coffee and continuing your conversation.
Therefore, plan to use the Internet for research and leads but use the majority of your job search time getting out and about. Attend as many events as possible and work the room with energy and purpose. You might just enjoy yourself, make a couple of new friends and even find leads to that job you've been looking to land. With the right attitude and a little luck, networking can truly prove a win/win/win!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2013, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!