Networking is part of your life, not just an activity when you need something

My good friend Jane Jackson, Career & Life Coach, has just published this post on networking. Also check out her book: Navigating Career Crossroads

The Golden rule when Networking for a Job: Create Serendipity

Some people believe serendipity is luck, chance or accidental. I don’t. When it happens, I believe it is meant to happen at that moment, right where you are. However, there are times when you can create your own serendipity … or at least create a likely situation where it may occur!

Let’s be strategic about this. Now, I’m talking about creating serendipity when it comes to your job search or the promotion of your business (in the case of the job search, your business is YOU!)

Sometimes my clients are reluctant networkers for a multitude of reasons and need a bit of assistance to take the first step. I’ve found that their attitude is what holds them back and the following suggestions have helped them. If you need a little help with networking, let’s see if these suggestions make a difference in your job search.

Attend an event, conference, social gathering or other networking opportunity with an expectation that something great is going to happen. Treat every encounter, client meeting or networking event as an opportunity to provide value to whom you’re talking. Be professional, warm and authentic – developing strong working relationships is the same as developing personal relationships.

It takes time – you need to get to know someone, like that person and then trust and respect that person for the relationship to get to the next level. You are going to meet someone who is going to make a difference in your life. What that difference will be remains to be seen, but turn up with an open and curious mindset.

Golden rules

1. Focus on letting yourself be free from agendas and create a positive impression on everyone you will meet. Allow yourself to enjoy each meeting, as you will learn something from every encounter.

2. Tell yourself that you are going to have a great time and will meet interesting people.

3. Armed with a positive attitude, open for all good things to come, ensure that you are prepared with what is necessary to create the serendipitous moment … business cards, marketing material (if appropriate.) It’s all well and good to expect great things to happen – you do need to prepare so you have what’s required to follow up if and when the time is right.

4. Be observant. Keep your focus on what is going on around you – who is attending an event, what the vibe is in the room, all this will give you clues as to whom you may wish to approach to ask a question or strike up a conversation. Be open to being approached too and welcome an introduction with a warm smile and firm handshake.

5. Evaluate your surroundings. If you’re attending an event, conference or social networking event and the aim is to expand your network, ask yourself the following questions:

Where will I be the most visible?
Where are people most likely to engage with me?
Who looks like someone I’d like to have a conversation with?

6. Just BE THERE! Show up and be prepared to let new people and situations unfold. If you are relaxed, others will relax with you too.

7. Extend every encounter. When talking with someone new and there is a mutual respect developing, ask if they would like to continue the conversation over lunch or coffee. Be interested. The longer you spend with someone, the more likely you are to discover how you can help each other. There may be other events you could attend together.

8. Make your memory happy. After you meet someone, WRITE DOWN (either on their business card or elsewhere) some memory joggers such as what he or she looked like, what you talked about, some personal info you can bring up next time you talk, your common point of interest.

9. Follow up with a phone call or an email within the week. Use the information gathered from #8 in your follow up. Prove that you really were listening! Then, offer something valuable like a link, recommendation or article. It’s always a lovely thing to provide something of value or interest and all it takes is a little bit of your time.

Sometimes great things will happen and you won’t even realise that it was serendipity, other times you will realise that it was you who helped serendipity along a little bit.

Develop a positive attitude of expectation, prepare yourself mentally and when you turn up with a smile, that serendipitous moment (new people, new opportunities) will come to you!

Get more tips on networking, professional branding and career management from Jane Jackson’s book: Navigating Career Crossroads.