Best Networking tips for 2010

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Even though about 80% of all jobs are found through networking, developing a professional network is not about looking for a job.  It's about creating professional resources for information, referrals, expertise and collaboration that last well beyond your current job search.  Networking offers long-lasting benefits, and exponentially increases your exposure to people who need your talent.

So, what are your specific talents?  You'll need to be able to succinctly tell the world about your "product" - that's you!  What do you do; why are you unique or different; where have you provided your services or talents, and what was an outcome?   A 30-second "elevator speech" is the first tool you'll need to develop your network.  (Link to article on "All You Need is ME - Selling Yourself")

Once you're armed with your elevator speech, you'll need to get out and meet people.  The easiest place to start is with family and friends.  Talk with former work associates, PTA parents, school contacts, and fellow church members.  Consider volunteering at events and community meetings to expand your pool of networking possibilities.

Research your career field or a particular industry you're curious about, and find out about professional associations and professional clubs in the field.  Many of these groups have monthly networking meetings you can attend.  In addition, some have job posting sites.  For example, Doostang (www.doostang.com) posts jobs targeted at top-tier schools.

If you're drawing blanks, start with your Chamber of Commerce monthly business mixer.  Your local college or university can provide additional sources for discovering events and activities.

People love to talk about themselves, but to be a good business networker, you'll need to be an interested listener too.  Keep conversation focused and simple; frame your conversation around 3 specific networking questions and be prepared with your own responses as well:

What do you do?

How long have you been doing it?

What did you do before?

Try to keep conversations under 5 minutes.  Your ultimate goal is to gain more time with people who can add to your resource network, so remember to close your conversation with more than just a business card exchange.  Be sure to ask when and how you can contact them again. 

"Can I phone you this week?"  "I'd love to get together again and see if we can connect each other with some of the great folks we know!" are perfect closing remarks for your new networking partners.

Make sure you leverage online business networking sites and social networking sites.  Connect with all your friends and family, then investigate their connections.  You will find many people you know indirectly that can help you get an introduction to the company you've targeted.  Don't be intimidated to reach out to people directly and explain how you are connected. 

People love expanding their business networks, so they will want to connect with you.  Once you connect with them, don't be afraid to ask them to turn your resume into HR.  They get paid if the company hires you, so they have incentive too.

Good luck.

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