We hear the word “networking” all the time, but what does it really mean? The answer is quite simple: it means connecting. As a job seeker, it is our task to connect with as many people as possible, because each person represents a new friend and a potential job lead. Think of the random funny emails we forward to each other. If we find something to be particularly hilarious, we will forward it to our friends who share our sense of humor. If it is a particularly good email and many people feel the way we do, those people will do the same, and that single email may reach hundreds of people in the span of a few hours.

Networking works in the same way. If we connect well with others, the people with whom we connect will feel comfortable forwarding our name to people they know. If they think we are dull and boring, socially inappropriate, or pushy they may not forward our name on because they do not want to put their reputations on the line to help us. They also will not help us if they don’t know anyone who would be an appropriate referral.

Types of Networking

There are two types of networking: informal and formal. Informal networking takes place all the time in places like the grocery store line, Bunco games, on the bus, at a social gathering, or anywhere you meet and hang out with other people. It is informal because there is no explicit purpose or agenda involved. Though it is informal, this type of networking is still very powerful and is where many jobs leads come from.

Formal networking meetings happen when you schedule a time for the explicit purposes of letting someone in your network know that you are looking for a job. It’s formal because you have stated an explicit purpose for the interaction and everyone knows that purpose.

What is a Lead?

Whether you are informally or formally networking, this is the time in which you tell our friends, colleagues, and business associates what type of job you are looking for to see if they can give you any leads.  The term “lead” refers to a potential contact, client, or customer that can help you on your journey and reach your goal of gainful employment.

There are two different types of leads: a cold lead and a warm lead. A cold lead refers to getting a name of a contact but no personal introduction so you have to introduce yourself. A warm lead means the person who knows both parties will facilitate an introduction and usually will talk you up a bit.

How to Get Networking Results

To get the best results from your networking efforts, you need to be as specific as possible when asking people for help. If someone says “please help me” and they don’t tell you what they need, it can be frustrating. So for example, you might say, “Hey Angela, this is Steve and I am looking for opportunities to join a real estate appraisal firm. Do you know any real estate appraisal firms, realtors, mortgage brokers, or real estate attorneys in the area I could talk to?”

If Angela likes and trusts Steve, she is going to go through her mental contact list and try to think of people who might benefit from what Steve is offering. Angela may say, “I got an advertisement in my mailbox from a real estate agent yesterday, I’ll send it to you.” (This is a cold lead – neither she nor you know this person.) If Angela knows someone who is appropriate, she will give Steve their name and call ahead to introduce you. This is considered a “warm lead,” because she has warmed up the contact to the idea of talking to him. Warm leads are the best. Regardless, Steve needs to follow up on both of these with a phone call or in person. Now that Angela knows Steve is looking for this type of work, she is also more likely to keep her eyes and ears open for him. So, for instance, Angela may run into Helen whose friend Margo’s father owns a real estate firm. Whereas before Angela would have all but ignored this information, now that she knows what Steve is looking for she can suggest that Steve and Margo connect.

When networking, people you’ve been referred to may or may not be able to help you directly; however, it’s very possible that they may refer you on to someone else. It’s through this method of “word of mouth” referrals that many people eventually find jobs.

Here is another example:  Mike was talking to his buddy at a happy hour in Times Square one night and mentioned he wanted a job on Wall Street. His buddy’s company happened to be looking for someone to physically run faxes from point A to point B on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Mike’s buddy talked to the boss and the boss offered Mike the job. A year later, he had the job of being a trader himself.

Summer is a great time to network. With 4th of July parties, weddings, and other activities, there are a lot of natural opportunities for making connections. In addition, many businesses slow down and people have more time to talk in a relaxed environment. Take a moment to identify your network and get started!

If you need further help, want to create a plan, or need to practice your conversational skills, call Kristin at 919-360-7957 and we can set something up.