Category Archives: Career Networking

10 ways to make your job-search networking meetings go smoothly

The day a woman called me to ask for an “informational interview” I had a feeling it wouldn’t go well. The tone of her voice was monotone, unenthusiastic. She was smacking gum in my ear. Regardless, I said yes and then there was silence. “Hello,” I said.

networking-meeting

“Oh, I was just looking through my calendar to see when I’m free,” she replied.

As I suspected, the conversation didn’t go well. The woman was probably told by a well-meaning career advisor to ask for an informational interview. But she wasn’t told the questions to ask or why she was asking for a networking meeting. She wasn’t clear on the purpose of our meeting.

The purpose of a networking meeting

First of all, no job has been advertised, so these meetings are not actual interviews. That’s why the term “networking meeting” is more fitting.

Second, you’re requesting a networking meeting to gather advice for a particular position and the company. So you’re the one asking the intelligent, thought-provoking questions. Therefore there is no pressure on the person offering information and advice, and no pressure on you.

Third, your goal is to present yourself as a potential solution to problems the company may have. There might be a position developing at the company, unbeknownst to you; and you might be recommended to the hiring manager for the position. At the very least, you could be sent away with three other people with whom to speak.

10 ways to make sure your networking meetings go smoothly.

1. Ask strong questions. Poor questions show a lack of preparation and are disrespectful. A question like, “What does your company do?” is weak because it lacks creativity and thought. Besides, you should already know what the company does before talking with the person granting you the meeting. I hate this question.

Another question I hate being asked is, “What do you do?” Can you be a little more specific? “How do you prepare for creating your workshops?” is a question I can talk to at length because it gives me direction. Begin the discussion with, “I know a little about what you do, but I have some questions to ask….”

Note: If there’s one question you should ask, it’s, “Are there any issues or problems that exist in your department or the company?” This gives you the opportunity to talk about how you’d solve the problem/s.

2. Your enthusiasm level is high. Chances are the person granting you the networking meeting is not looking forward to spending his valuable time answering questions from a person he’s never met or met once at a conference. So coming across as bored or hesitant, will not bode well.

Instead begin the conversation by introducing yourself and explaining why you are excited about talking with said person. Why you’re interested in the position up for discussion, as well as the types of companies you’re interested in learning about.

Don’t forget to smile while you’re talking in person or on the phone—it can be heard through the phone connection.

3. Arrive or call on time. This is a no brainer. If you are late for the meeting, you might as well kiss it goodbye. This is common sense; people hate it when others are late, me included.

Make arrangements for this special day so that there’s no way you’ll be late. In fact, arrive early if you’re meeting for coffee with the person granting you the meeting. If you’re calling, set your watch alarm or e-mail alert 10 minutes before making the call. Don’t call late or early; call at the exact time.

4. Have a clear agenda. Similar to point #1, your agenda must provide direction. Don’t come across as wimpy and disorganized.

State at the beginning of the meeting that your goal is to learn more about the position, the company, and competition—if the person can speak to that point.

While you want the meeting to be more like a conversation, it doesn’t hurt to provide structure. Write down all your questions in groupings of the job, company, and competition. This way you won’t forget to ask them.

5. Provide data to back up your accomplishments. You’re not being interviewed for a job, but the person granting you the meeting will want to know something about you, what you’re made of. To break the ice, she might ask what you currently do and what your interests are.

So you’re interested in event planning, but most of your experience as been through extensive volunteerism (you stayed home 10 years to raise a family). Most recently, you were tasked with planning the PTO’s bake sale which raised $3,000; whereas the year before the school raised only $150. Tell her you “love” event planning.

This is great information and should be shared with the person granting you the networking meeting, if asked.

6 Show your gratitude. Don’t make the person feel as though you’re the one who’s inconvenienced by having to ask questions and giving structure to the meeting. You come across as someone who is all about yourself, not about giving back.

As I’ve said before, the person granting you the networking meeting is taking time out of her busy schedule. Say, “Thank you for taking this time to answer my questions” at the outset and repeat your words of gratitude at the end of the conversation.

7. Don’t ask for a job. There’s no job available; at least to the person granting you the meeting, so don’t be presumptuous. Besides, the mere fact that you’re before this person or talking on the phone implies you’re looking for a job, especially at this company.

Now if it’s a known fact between you and the person with whom you’re speaking that a position exists at the company, by all means discuss the possibility of your fit, both job-related and personality wise. Perhaps you were given a soft lead from a connection of yours.

8. A call for action. Always ask if there’s anyone else you can speak with to gather more information and advice. If no position exist or is being developed at the moment, the least you should come away with are additional people with whom to talk. Often job seekers will neglect this part of the networking process.

Your goal is to gather as many quality people to join your networking campaign as possible. Politely ask at the end of the informational meeting, “Can you think of anyone I can speak with regarding a nursing position?” Don’t expect the person to come up with three people immediately; she may have to send you the contact information.

9. Reciprocate. Failure to give back demonstrates your lack of networking etiquette. You can’t expect to receive and not give. I come across many people who think their job search is the center of everyone’s lives and don’t think of offering help to those who help them.

Reciprocity can come in many forms. After discussing some issues that existed at the company, you came up with a better procedure for the company’s supply chain operation. Or the small company needs some graphic art for their website—this will fit nicely on your résumé.

10. Always send a thank-you note and follow-up. This is a golden rule at any point in your job search. Failing to send a thank-you note, via e-mail or a card is insulting and a sure way to lose that person as part of your network. A nicely written thank you shows your gratitude and professionalism.

Gently remind the person who granted you the network meeting of the additional people you should contact. Keep a lively conversation—perhaps one that involved an existing problem at the company—going, and offer a solution to that problem. By all means don’t drop this person as a potential networking connection.


Networking meetings can be a gem. I tell my workshop attendees that they’re not easy to come by, as people are extremely busy. Most people who grant networking meetings do so because they want to help you in your job search. Don’t waste their time. They can be an asset to your networking endeavor.

And please don’t act like the woman who called me for our “informational interview.”

Photo: Flickr, Pulpolux !!!

9 essential components of your job-search marketing campaign: Part 2

If every successful business requires a marketing campaign to promote its products or services, it figures that your job search requires the same. In part one of this two-part series, we looked at the written communications of a job-search marketing campaign. Four career-development pundits weighed in on research, the résumé and LinkedIn profile, and the approach letter.

woman on phone

Part two features five pundits, who address the verbal side of your job-search marketing campaign. To kick off this article, we’re going to address a very important part of you campaign, personal branding.

Personal branding

Erin KErin Kennedy specializes in personal branding for executive-level job seekers. She talks about the importance of creating a clear, strong brand for your verbal communications.

People sometimes get confused about what their personal brand is. What is it? How do I figure it out? But the fact is, we all have a personal brand already. It is entwined in everything we do i.e. what we are good at, what we are known for, what others come to us for, what we specialize in.

“Once job seekers look at it that way, it’s much easier to break it down and define what our “personal brand” is. One way to strengthen your brand is through your verbal communications. It is easy to confuse people about who you are if you are not crystal clear about your brand.

Job seekers need to realize that not properly communicating their brand in their job search can be a huge obstacle in finding the job they are qualified for…and are hoping for. Take the time to ensure you have a strong brand statement that shows your expertise and the value you can offer a prospective employer.

Every successful business requires a strong brand which is unique to its products or services. Taglines like, “Just Do It,” “Think Different,” and “I’m Lovin’ It” stand on their own because of the strength of Nike, Apple, and McDonald’s.


Networking

Nothing can be more effective to land an interview than networking. Many will agree that your résumé and LinkedIn profile are all important, but they would also agree that how you distribute them largely depends on networking.

AustinAustin Belcak’s LinkedIn profile tagline is: I Help People Land Amazing Jobs Without Applying Online // Need Help With Your Job Search? Let’s Talk. Austin is definitely a proponent of networking.

“When it comes to expanding your network, there are two rules I like to follow: first quality always beats quantity. People get scared of networking because they think they need to blast out a million connection requests or go to these meetups. That stuff doesn’t work.

“Real relationships are usually built in a small setting and they require a lot of work. Instead of spraying and praying, pick a handful of people you really want to connect with and focus in on them.

“Second, be relentless about adding value Don’t start the relationship with your palm out. Instead, research the person and work to find ways to add value. Send them a resource, offer some feedback, introduce them to someone, tell them how you took their advice and benefited from it.

“If you approach each relationship with a value-add mindset and consistently show up in a positive light, the reciprocation will be there. It takes time and it takes practice but it’s the best way to build strong relationships that pay dividends down the road.”

Whether you decide to go to large or small events or simply networking in your community, make sure you are equipped with personal business cards. Learn 7 reasons why personal business cards are important and what information to include on them.

Without networking, many companies would fail. Smaller companies often survive on word of mouth. Similarly, large companies need to create trust to close a deal. Your marketing campaign is similar. As Austin says, be selective in who you approach in your marketing campaign.


LinkedIn engagement

Although your LinkedIn engagement is accomplished through writing, I feel it’s important to note in this part of the article as a form of networking.

I tell my clients that their profile is important, but it’s also important to develop a focused, like-minded network and engage with those connections. Engaging with your network can be difficult if you don’t have the confidence and you don’t know how to communicate with them.

First of all, you have expertise in your field and, therefore, shouldn’t question your right to engage with your connections. Second, don’t start the relationship with “the ask.” I’ve been approached by LinkedIn users who want to connect, but instead of taking the time to communicate with me and build a relationship; they ask if I’ll review their profile. This is in the initial invite.

My clients often ask me how they can engage with their connections. The first and most obvious way to engage is through personal messages. You won’t reach as many people this way, but you can develop and nurture relationships.

Other ways to engage with your connections include: sharing and commenting on articles that will add value to them (just be sure to tag the writer of said articles); writing long posts in which you express your thoughts and expertise; contribute to other’s long posts; share photos and thoughtful captions; and ask questions. These are a few ways to engage with your connections.

Many successful businesses are using B2B networking, as they can reach more potential partners. The idea of using LinkedIn is similar; you, as a business are reaching out to potential employers and quality networkers.


The interview

Maureen McCann is a job search strategist and executive résumé writer. Who believes that first impressions are the first part of the puzzle. She relates her story to demonstrate the importance of first impressions.

One of my first jobs was as executive assistant to a general manager of a pharmaceutical company. Anytime he interviewed new members of our growing sales team, he’d immediately close the door after the candidate left and ask me what I thought of the candidate.

You see, all of the candidates would be selling products to medical professionals (think: plastic surgeons, dermatologists). To get the attention of the doctors, the salesperson would have to first connect with the person at the front desk (the gatekeeper) before scheduling an appointment with a busy doctor.

The GM of my company knew this and so he paid close attention to my first impressions of candidates. Those that did not strike up a conversation and simply waited to talk to the GM missed an opportunity to sell me on their candidacy and have me advocate for them following their interview with the GM.

It’s time for the interview. Are you ready? Sarah Johnston feels not only strongly about the importance of doing your labor market research (as she explains in part one of this article), she also feels strongly about assessing the big opportunity.

“When you are interviewing, make sure that you evaluate the company, your future boss, and the actual opportunity carefully to make sure that it’s a good fit for you. In researching a company, some of my favorite tools include:

  • “LinkedIn to review the credentials of the people that you are interviewing with. By looking at their profile, you can often gather where they’ve worked, how long they’ve been in a role, groups that they are apart of and where they went to school or received training.

  • “If you are interviewing with a publicly traded company, it’s a good idea to review their annual report to learn more about their profitability, biggest challenges, and their corporate responsibility. To access free reports, visit: http://www.prars.com/about.php.”

Along with assessing the company and people who will be interviewing you, it’s important to be prepared to answer tough interview questions. There are interview questions you know you will be asked. And you should have answers in mind.

Madeline Mann is the founder of the YouTube channel, Self Made Millennial, which delivers outstanding job-search tips. When asked what her number one tip for interviews is, she says, “Know your stories.”

“My top interview tip–the one that clients have most tightly correlated to getting a job offer–is what I call a “Story Toolbox.” It allows you to answer any behavioral question, and many of the other questions typically asked in an interview.

“What most people do when asked questions like, ‘What’s your greatest strength?’ or ‘What’s your leadership style?’ is they describe themselves. They say, ‘I am hard worker, team player, highly skilled…blah, blah, blah.’ But none of this gets down to: So what did you do?

“According to American psychologist Jerome Bruner: ‘stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone.‘ Therefore, telling stories will help you to be memorable and are a great way to show your character through describing situations you’ve been in, rather than simply stating characteristics.

“So what I recommend is to make your own story tool box. You go into every interview with a set of planned stories and you frame it in a way that answers whatever question they are asking. Trust me, your stories will be effective for a wide variety of questions.”

Closing the sale is how I look at the interview. Here’s where your ability to speak of your value comes into play. For established companies it’s similar to attending conferences, trade shows, meetings, and other opportunities where they can deliver their value face-to-face.


Follow up

The final element of your job-search marketing campaign is one that people feel to complete. One of my valued LinkedIn connections said it best, “When you don’t follow up, you were never there.”

Some job seekers believe the interview is over once they’ve shaken the interviewer’s hand and left the room. “That went well,” they think. “Now, it’s time to wait for the decision.”

Perhaps it went well, but perhaps one or two other candidates also had stellar interviews. Perhaps those other candidates followed up on their interviews with thoughtful thank-you notes.

So when is the interview really over? Not until you’ve sent a follow-up note.

If you don’t believe sending a follow-up note is important, one source claimed:

  • 86 percent of employers will take your lack of a note to mean you don’t follow through on things;
  • 56 percent of employers will assume you aren’t that serious about the job; and
  • 22 percent of employers are less likely to hire you if you don’t send a follow-up note.

What Goes in Your Note?

  1. Show Your Gratitude
  2. Reiterate You’re the Right Person for the Job
  3. Cite Some Interesting Points Made During the Interview
  4. Do Some Damage Control
  5. Suggest a Solution to a Problem
  6. Assert You Want the Job

Lastly, follow up a week after the interview for no more than three consecutive weeks.

A company that fails to follow up will lose the sale or fail in attaining the bid. This reminds me of a plumber who doesn’t return my call. I’m on to the next person.


If you haven’t read part one of this series, I encourage you to.

Reciprocity in the job search isn’t as hard as you think

After reading an article, Principle #1-Reciprocity, from my valued LinkedIn connection Brian Ahearn, I began thinking about how difficult it is for some people to reciprocate in the throes of their job search.

talk

This is not the first time Brian has given me an idea that can help job seekers. Brian writes about the art of persuasion. He is “one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence.”

One example of a job seeker having a hard time reciprocating is when he’s networking and wonders how can they return the favor. For example, a fellow networker provides him with a few leads of people they can contact. One of the leads turns into an interview and eventual job offer.

He might not be able to reciprocate in the same manner, but he can do something as simple as help the giver with enhancing her résumé. Or he may let her know of any openings at his new company. I’ve witnessed many of my former clients reciprocate in this manner.

Read Brian’s article, Principle #1-Reciprocity, and see how you can reciprocate a favor someone pays you when you are networking.

The professional networking document: how it can help during your job search

If you’re wondering what a professional networking document is, you’re probably not alone. You may have heard about professional bios, and maybe you have one; but this is a different kind of marketing document for your job search. This, as the name implies, is for networking purposes.

mock interview2

The top part of your professional networking document resembles a résumé and the bottom part explains to those with whom you’re networking what you’re pursuing in terms of position/s, types of companies, and target companies. This is perhaps the most important part of your professional networking document.

Where you use it

The most obvious place to use your professional networking document is in a networking meeting. (You may know it as an “informational interview.”) It’s where you would slide your document across the table to the person who has graciously agreed to meet with you to provide advice and possible leads.

Just as the meeting is nearing the end, you ask if the person wouldn’t mind taking a glance at your professional networking document. Watch as she takes a look at your company target list. You’ll see her study it and hopefully mention that she knows people at some of the companies. This is the start of something good.

If you’re a member of a buddy group, you can provide the other networkers a copy of your professional networking document. A buddy group is a better place to disseminate your document than to a larger, formal networking group, where participants wouldn’t appreciate carrying a sheet of paper around.

You can also send it to your network in an email. By doing this you’ll cover more ground; although, this is not the ideal way of distributing your professional networking document. Your goal is to get in front of people with your document in hand, so you can discuss it with them.

The top part of your document

This part of your professional networking document, as I mentioned above, resembles your résumé. It is not your entire résumé, as the document should not exceed one page. Here’s where you only include the juiciest information from your résumé.

The first three sections of your concise résumé will include your Contact Info, Job Target, Performance Profile, and Core Competencies. Following is an example of the sections for a Sr. Director of New Business Development.

The final two sections will be your Recent Experience and Education. Your experience section should only show accomplishment statements that are quantified or qualified.

⇓⇓⇓

Sr. Director New Business Development
Identify new global business development opportunities that garner growth and consistent revenue increases of 18% annually. Direct marketing strategy, creating new brand and product category offerings. Recognize industry trends leading to profitability & added value.

CORE COMPETENCIES

New Business Development | Major Account Management | Marketing | Negotiations | Sales

EXPERIENCE

ABC, Anywhere, USA 2009 – 2019
Sr. Director ~ New Business Development/Marketing/Sales
Directed a $200MM company that produced office management software primarily supporting Energy and Education. Emphasis on overall operations of five departments, continuous improvement, and revenue generation. Major highlights include:

  • Initiated the design of 3 brands that dominated the US Northeast region and gained prominence in Western Europe. These brands remain the most popular for ABC.
  • Trained inside sales and distributor sales staff in all aspects of selling, sales input and follow-through; leading to 80% increased sales for ABC’s distributors.
  • Implemented cross-sales plans between major education companies; consistent annual sales growth of an average of 18%.

EDUCATION

Babson College, Waltham, MA
Master’s of Science, Business Administration

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
Bachelor’s of Science, Marketing, Minor in Communications


The bottom part of your document

This is perhaps the most important part of your professional networking document because it gives your networking partners a sense of your goals. Someone who receives your document will have a better sense of how to help you than if your were to simply express your goals through conversation.

The Target Companies section of your professional networking document is most likely the most difficult to devise, yet the most valuable piece of the document. As mentioned above, this will hopefully spark an idea in people who receive your document. Perhaps on the spot during your networking meetings.

⇓⇓⇓

ROLES

Director, VP
New Business Development | Sales/Marketing

TYPE OF ORGANIZATIONS

Entrepreneurial, innovative | mid- to large-sized organization | education or energy | within the USA

TARGET COMPANIES

Education: American Public Education | Archipelago Learning | Capella Education Company | Bridgepoint Education | Franklin Covey Company | Rosetta Stone

Energy: 1366 Tech | Achates Power | Aemetis | AltaRock Energy | Aquion Energy | BrightSource Energy | Clean Energy Collective


Imagine someone saying, “AltaRock Energy. I know the VP of marketing there. Here name is RoseAnn Johnston. A great woman. Give me a minute to get her contact information. Also Clean Energy Collective. I know the CEO there. We play golf….”

Your professional networking document can greatly enhance your networking efforts if written effectively and used in the proper circumstances. This document is not confined to executive-level job seekers; managers and individual contributors can also benefit from it.

This post originally appeared on Jobscan.co

7 wasted networking opportunities that hurt your chances

At formal networking events there’s usually a “needs and leads” session, where participants can mention companies in which they’re interested. They ask if their fellow networkers know anyone at those companies. That’s the needs part.

Men Networking

The leads part is when their fellow networkers shout out the names of people they know at said companies. Or they say that they’ll talk with the person, who has needs, at the end of the networking event. This brings me to the first missed opportunity.

Not asking for leads

At a recent networking event I was leading at our career center, I asked if anyone had any needs and leads. This was after our guest speaker had finished her presentation. No sooner had I made the announcement, many people rose from their chairs and headed for the door.

For those who remained, I told them this was their chance to ask for leads. A few of them mentioned companies in which they were interested. And a few of the attendees offered some leads.

This is a classic example of job seekers who don’t know the companies in which they’re interested. They haven’t done their research, haven’t created a list of 10 or 15 companies they’re targeting. Or maybe they’re afraid to ask for help. In either case, this is a missed opportunity.

Not approaching the guest speaker

I mentioned we had a guest speaker. If the guest speaker is someone who works for a company on your target list, you must wait around at the end of the event to grab a few minutes of their time. Let’s call this Company X.

Make your intentions clear that you’re very interested in Company X and the role you’re seeking. The speaker might not know if Company X has an opening or plans to hire someone for your position, but that’s okay.

Kindly ask if you can leave your resume or, better yet, personal business card with them for future consideration. Ask for their company business card, as well. And don’t forget to ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn.

If all of this seems too forward, keep in mind that people who attend networking events, participants or speakers, know the purpose of the event—to network. How you deliver the ask is important. You must come across as polite and sound as if you don’t expect anything.

Not approaching people with whom you should speak

Research the people who will be attending. If possible, find out if there will be contacts or potential contacts at the event. You might want to arrange to meet people of interest at the event. As well, you can inquire from the coordinator of the event who will be at the event. This is particularly a smart move for people who are uncomfortable going to networking events.

The events I lead at our career center always begin with people delivering their 30-second elevator pitch. This is the time when you write down each person’s occupation, so you can approach them near the end of the networking event.

Here are some other tips:

  1. Make sure you’re wearing a name tag for easy recognition.
  2. Approach the people with whom you want to speak in a friendly manner.
  3. Be prepared to provide information or leads for them.
  4. Be willing to deliver your ask…politely

Not including other networkers in a group conversation

I see this all the time. A group of networkers excluding others from their group. I find it incredibly rude and a possible missed opportunity. For example, at one of my networking events I see a group of people having a lively conversation. I know that one of them might be interested in a position we’re trying to fill at our career center.

I wait patiently. I try to make eye contact with one of them. Still waiting I get no love. I walk away and move on to an individual who is standing alone and appearing uncomfortable. She’s happy to see me, as I’m the facilitator of the event.

I’ve also seen this at larger events. A good group facilitator will walk with the person to a group of clueless networkers and introduce the hesitant person. The facilitator will break the wall and force the group to include said person. This should not have to happen.

Not bringing your personal business cards to the event

In my opinion, if you leave your personal business cards at home, don’t go to the event. It’s that simple.

Hopefully this article will encourage you to create a personal business card: 7 reasons why you need personal business cards and 7 facts to include on them.

Not dressing for success

It’s not necessary to dress to the nines when you go to a formal networking event, but you should at least wear casual work attire. I’ve seen people wear Tee-shirts and jeans to events. This might have been appropriate attire for where they worked, but it’s not appropriate for a formal event.

Not dressing for success shows a lack of professionalism and respect to other members of the networking group. I say this because I feel disrespected when I hold an event and people wear their Saturday home gear.

For the most part, I see networkers who dress very well. Some will appear in a suit, which is overkill, but others will wear nicely pressed shirts, blouses, slacks, or skirts. This says to me, “I know why I’m here, and I’m ready to get down to work.” They get it.

Keep in mind that a potential employer might be in the room, and they might have to hire an employee in the future. Who’s going to leave a positive impression in their mind; the people who’ve dressed to impress, or the ones who’ve shown up looking like they’re going to mow their lawn.

Of course, not following-up

Here’s where many people drop the ball; they don’t follow-up with the people with whom they’ve had a great conversation. The words of my friend and founder of a networking group, Kevin Willett, ring in my ears:

If you don’t follow up, it’s like you were never there.

So true. You must follow up the next day (Monday if it’s a Friday event) with a phone call or email. And you must persist for a couple or three times at most. If you don’t get a response, the message is clear; that person was never serious to begin with.

Here’s where you need to practice etiquette. If you reach said person, ask them if they would like to meet for coffee (your treat) or have a phone conversation at their convenience.

Here’s the thing; people like me would rather speak over the phone than take more time to meet for coffee. There are others, however, that like the face-to-face interaction. Tell them that you respect their time and will talk anywhere they’d like.


Missed opportunity at networking events can mean the difference between landing a job and not. Let’s recap on what you should do:

  1. Ask for leads
  2. Approach the guest speaker
  3. Approach people with whom you need to speak
  4. Include others in your group conversation
  5. Bring your personal business cards to events
  6. Dress for success
  7. Follow up

Photo: Flickr, International Railway Summit

4 ways networking is a waste of time: 6 ways networking works

Networking a waste of time? Coming from someone who co-facilitates a networking group and runs a job club at a career center, this statement seems like a contradiction. I believe in the power of networking, but how it’s done makes all the difference.

uncomfortable lady

At times networking for job seekers is painfully unsuccessful. Maybe you’ve experienced a time like this: You enter a large room in a church or library or anywhere that will host the networking group. You don’t know a soul if it’s your first go around.

You are shy in social situations. Introducing yourself and launching into small talk scares the hell out of you. Everyone else is engaged in conversation, save for a few people standing in the corners of this room which seems to be growing in size.

You’re remembering everything you’ve been told in job-search workshops. Have your elevator speech prepared is what you’ve been told. Deliver it naturally. Ask for and give your personal business card to anyone who will take and give theirs.

Networking doesn’t work for the following reasons

The scenario described above is one that is common to many job seekers. It’s reason enough for job seekers to swear to never network again. Here are reasons why networking can be a waste of time.

1. You expect immediate gratification

At one point you were told that fellow networkers are going to help you land your next job, which can be true. But if you expect them to have a pocketful of valuable connections with whom you can speak, or opportunities at the ready; you’re in for a disappointed time. Networking is a process that is invaluable, but it takes more time than one visit.

2. You’re not prepared for a formal networking setting

Remember the scenario I painted above? For many people, a large room full of people is not an ideal setting for networking. Generally speaking extraverts are more comfortable in larger groups than introverts, but this isn’t always the case. Extraverts may be as uncomfortable as introverts. The message here is be prepared.

3. You left your personal business cards at home

Worse yet, you don’t have personal business cards. Personal business cards are necessary for a formal networking event. At least 95% of the attendees will have their own personal business cards, which are ideal marketing literature that are meant specifically for networking events. Read my popular post to learn more about personal business cards.

4. You’re only there for the show

Do you go to a networking event to see the guest speaker and then leave? If this is the case, you have no intention to communicate with others. This is acceptable for one event, but if this is your MO, you’re taking up a seat. Read below to learn about what works.

What works

What works is communicating with people who have the same goal in mind, landing a job. Isn’t that what one does when they network, you wonder? Not necessarily. Some people don’t get the concept. Communicating should consist of an exchange of words from which both parties can benefit.

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1. Go to networking events with the goal of conversation in mind

I feel most comfortable at a business networking event if there are no expectations of immediate gratification. For example, I could have multiple conversations with a person until we know each other well enough to help each other. I don’t feel comfortable talking with someone who thinks talking at people is communicating. Do you see the difference? If you find yourself in a one-way conversation, disengage with said person.

2. Go with the mindset that you’re going to help each other

You’ve heard, “Help others before asking for help.” I personally think this attitude is a good one to adopt. Don’t go to a networking event only expecting help. However, have conversations with people who can be of mutual assistance. In other words, if you get the sense that the people with whom you’re talking only want help and have no interest in giving it, dump them like a hot potato.

3. Meet in smaller groups

Until now I’ve been painting a picture of large networking events. This type of setting may not be for you. Smaller networking groups may be the secret sauce for you. In smaller groups, you have a better chance of talking with more people and understanding their needs and how you can be of mutual assistance to each other. Read my article on the pros and cons of buddy groups.

4. You’ve got nothing to prove

You don’t have to leave a networking event with 10 personal business cards. You don’t have to leave a networking group with three business cards. In fact, if you leave a networking group without making connections, that’s all right. Just keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Failure is thinking that going to only one event was a waste of time.

5. Success happens anywhere

Superficial networkers are the people you meet when you’re out and about. They are the people in your community—your neighbors, friends, relatives, convenience store owners, hair stylist, dentist, soccer mom at a game, etc. These are people who may have heard of an opportunity. However, they can’t be of assistance unless you let them know you’re out of work. One suggestion is to always carry your personal business cards wherever you go.

6. Create your own networking events

I often suggest books for my clients to read. One of them is Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone. One of the ideas behind this book is to create your own networking opportunities. Invite anyone you want to a hiking outing or dinner party (for instance) and…network. They can be job seekers or business contacts. It’s a great idea.


Networking can work as long as you avoid the four don’ts of networking and, instead, focus on the six dos. The suggestion I emphasize the most is not to give up on networking after one or two attempts. If you’re unsure of what to do, shadow another job seeker to learn best practices.

It’s okay to connect with strangers on LinkedIn

“That’s weird. I can’t connect with strangers,” my daughter said. “Look, I’m at a coffee shop. I gotta go.” And then there was phone silence.

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This is three days after she made me proud by joining LinkedIn; I imagine because her career advisor suggested she should. So, more than a post addressed at my daughter; I’m reaching out to the college career advisor who suggested my daughter join LinkedIn.

First, I need to say, “Thank you very much.” And, second, you also should tell my daughter that it’s okay to connect with strangers on LinkedIn. It’s not “weird.”

Let me amend this statement. It’s okay to connect with the right strangers.

I get the same skepticism—which my daughter conveyed—from my older clients, but in different words. They tell me they feel “uncomfortable” asking people to join their paltry network of 80 LinkedIn members.

The short answer I give them is the idea of being on LinkedIn is to develop a network and to use it to gain assistance, as well as help others.

Then they’ll ask me, in effect, why anyone would want to connect with them. To answer their question, I explain that the power of LinkedIn is joining like-minded people. Regardless of the employment situation, my clients are still part of the workforce.

Still reluctant to connect with LinkedIn members?

I tell my clients that they should imagine themselves at an in-person networking event. They’re there because they want to meet people who can provide advice and, perhaps, information that could lead to their next gig.

Then I say there are two scenarios. The first is that they speak to as many people they feel comfortable with. They have a great time getting to know these people; it’s liberating. They’ll develop relationships with some of them; with others they won’t.

The second scenario is somewhat different. Instead of deciding to meet new people, they stand in a corner of the room and wait for people to approach them. As well, they put their heads down avoiding making eye contact. They will not develop relationships with any of them.

There are rules, though

1. Chose the right people to connect with

This is one of the rules I preach often. Know who your students will benefit from, and how they can help their new connections. Stress it’s a two-way street.

The first people your students should invite to their network are their classmates, people who are studying the same major. Engineering majors connect with engineering majors, English Lit. majors connect with English Lit. majors and so on.

Next they should connect with other majors. Bio Chemistry majors can connect with Physic majors. Psychology majors may want to be really crazy and connect with Math majors.

Next connect with students at other schools. Tell them to send invites to students at local schools, at first. There are many schools in the Boston area, so an Early Childhood Education major could connect with the like at other universities in the area.

The huge victories are connecting with the alumni of their school. These are the people who are able to help your students when they graduate from university. A business major needs to reach out to higher level employed alumni, announcing themselves as college students who would like to join their network. The best LinkedIn tool for finding alumni is “See Alumni.

This tool allows students to search for their classmates and alumni by these classifications:

  • What they are skilled at
  • What they studied
  • What they do
  • Where they work
  • Where they live

2. Know how invite LinkedIn users to their network

Students can’t just click the connect button on the profile of the intended connection, and then hit “Send Now.” Instead they must send a personalized invite. Many students probably wonder what they should write in their invite.

Have them write a generic message or two or three that fit the situation. Here are a few they can store on their desktop and modify to fit the situation.


To classmates

Hi (name). I’ve just joined LinkedIn and because we’re in the same major, would like to add you to my network. Perhaps we can learn from each other how to navigate this valuable platform.

(Student’s name)


To professors

Dear (Professor’s name)

I enjoy/ed your class and learned a great deal about (topic). I hope you don’t find this too bold, but I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn so we can stay in touch with each other. By the way, I encourage my classmates to take your class. That’s how much I enjoy/ed it.

(Student’s name)


To alumni

Dear (Name)

I’m a student at (school) and am starting to build my network. I see that you studied the same topic that I did. One of my objectives is to create focused online relationships. I understand how busy you must be. It would be great to connect and help each other when the time arises.

By the way, you and my mother worked at Dell at the same time. She’s working at IBM now.

(Student name)

3. Follow up with their new connections

What separates people who know how to use LinkedIn and those who don’t is following up with their connections. Students can’t simply invite someone to their network and leave it at that. After sending the proper invite, and being accepted, students should send a short note thanking their new connection for accepting their invite. This can facilitate more conversation.

I warn against accepting any invitation. If a student gets the “weird” feeling, it is not an invite to accept. I haven’t discussed this step with my daughter yet, but I’ll make sure that the stranger and she have a commonality, such as they are studying the same major, or have the same career goal, or simply attend the same school.


Really our jobs are not much different, dear college career advisor. We both have to help our clients get over the “weird” feeling of connecting with strangers. Tell them that other LinkedIn members are on the platform to meet people like our clients. Also tell them they should reach out to like-minded people, and that there are rules. College students understand rules.