There are lots of different ways to network effectively, and a few ways not to network if you don’t want to bug the hell out of people. Bugging the hell out of people is generally not an effective strategy.
Seven Networking Do’s
1. Make a list of contacts, including relatives, friends, ex-co-workers and supervisors, ex-spouses (well, maybe not them), other professionally-related people you know such as vendors you regularly worked with, people with whom you’re in some kind of interest or community group, ex-classmates, instructors, etc.
2. Connect or reconnect with these folks around something you have in common.
3. Get out there. Attend events, take classes. Go to professional networking events related to your field, networking events not related to your field, fundraisers, events related to your interests, parties, barbeques, bar mitzvahs, bachelor parties, etc., etc., etc. The more opportunities you have to chat with friends, acquaintances, and strangers, the better. As long as you don’t get too shitfaced.
4. If you haven’t already, join professional organizations related to your field, if it’s not too pricey for your current financial situation.
5. Whether it’s with someone you know intimately or a total stranger, in person or online, always make it a “mutual benefit” encounter. It’s not just about you and your job search. What can you do for them? Come on, you can think of something.
6. Develop a positive online presence. Yes, I said “positive.” More on that below in the “Don’ts” section. Build a professional presence related to your field, and/or another topic you have a lot of knowledge about. Get on LinkedIn and Twitter. Join online professional/interest groups, post articles, (intelligently) comment on others’ blogs.
7. Remember you have tons of talents and knowledge to offer, and you can be a valuable resource to others even if you don’t happen to be working right now. So strut your stuff a little. Not in an obnoxious way, rather in a confident “I-have-the-goods” kind of way.
And Now For the 7 Networking Don’ts….
1. Don’t harass people. It may sound obvious (at least, I hope so), but no one will want to help you with anything, much less be within fifty feet of you, if you pester them. Connect and follow up, yes, but don’t call people every day, don’t try to contact them more than two or three times at the most (not in the same hour); generally don’t be an inconsiderate asshole.
2. Don’t be ignorant of the online impression you may be making. Facebook photos of you with your pants on your head and blog comments in support of snuff films won’t help you. Don’t know what snuff films are? Good for you.
3. Don’t walk up to someone at an event and say, “I heard you’re the Financial Manager at Vandalay Industries. Here’s my resume. Could you spare a couple of hours to take me to dinner so we can talk about my background? Thanks a bunch.” Of course, I know you’re not one of THOSE people. Are you? If so, stop it.
4. Don’t join groups just for the hell of it. Yes, I know we’re all human and all of us have SOMETHING in common and all that crap. You’re much more likely to find people to connect with and have stuff to say if you have a reason to be a part of that particular group other than to network for networking’s sake. If you’re an outdoor, sports-y person, don’t take a needlepoint class in hopes of finding people who can give you job leads.
5. Don’t try to reconnect with people who probably would prefer not to hear from you. Ex-boyfriends who cheated on you (or vice-versa) wouldn’t likely be good people to attempt to network with.
6. Don’t put anything online unless you’ve proofread it first. Spelling and grammatical errors won’t win you any brownie points.
7. I said it before, and I’ll say it again – Don’t make it all about you. Show your interest in the other person and whatever they’ve got going on. Offer to give them info, contacts, resources, massage, whatever. Well, only the massage if you know them really well. You don’t want to give the wrong idea. But you know what I’m saying.