Networking matters. It is the most important aspect of a successful job search. Unfortunately, many of us cringe at the idea of wearing uncomfortable clothes and attending a crowded job fair. We hate talking about ourselves. The whole concept seems foreign, stuffy, and a little weird.
While it is great to hang out with regular folks who accept you, those people cannot do anything for you. The only way to find a job is to meet new people who are hiring. That's networking.
Here are a few different ways to think about meeting people and finding work.
- Opportunities are everywhere. Whether you're dropping off the kids at daycare or having a root canal at the dentist, you never know when you will strike up a conversation with a stranger who knows about a really great job. Make sure you tell everyone that you are looking for work.
- Be prepared to talk about yourself. You don't want to blow an opportunity when you finally have a chance to talk about your skills. Craft a twenty-second verbal description of what you do for a living. This is called an 'elevator pitch' because it's how you would describe yourself in the short time you have if you run into someone on an elevator. Your pitch doesn't have to be fancy because you aren't accepting an Academy Award. Be brief, be concise, and be confident.
- Always keep a few copies of your resume in the car. You might meet a new usher at your church who knows a guy who's hiring. There might be a woman at the laundromat who has a brother who owns an electrical business. Never leave those conversations without writing down the name of the hiring manager and handing your new friend a copy of your resume.
Remember that life is about making connections and building trust. Do you have coffee at the same place every day and talk to the hostess? Don't be afraid to say hello. Once you get to know someone, ask that person how you can help. That's networking, too. It goes both ways, and during tough economic times, we reap rewards when we remember to act selflessly and charitably on behalf of others.