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There are many ways to obtain a job; searching job boards is just one of many solutions to consider. Networking is often the best strategy for finding a new position. The common adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is becoming increasingly true in today’s competitive market. When considering candidates to hire, employers often reach out to their personal networks first and then resort to job boards if they are having difficulty filling the position.
 
While it may seem daunting, networking is easier than you think. To get started, take a moment and examine the personal relationships in your life. While often understated, we all wear a variety of hats which we interchange frequently depending on the situation. These roles include friend, club member, child, and neighbor to name just to name a few. Each role provides us with a different set of connections which can be used as a good starting point for networking.
 
After evaluating your own network you should meet with new people in order to expand your reach. A few good ways to do this include cold calling or emailing potential employers requesting an informational meeting to learn more about their organization or my personal favorite, networking events. Meetup Eventbrite, and community aggregated lists are great resources to find events matching your industry and interests.
 
Now that you’ve gotten over your initial fear of networking, it’s time to dive in! When networking, it’s important to keep a few basics in mind to ensure you leave new contacts with the right impression. 
 
When Meeting Someone for the First Time You Should:
  • Look them directly in the eye
  • Give a firm handshake – no “dead fish” or “test of strength! “Say your name slowly and confidently when introducing yourself
  • Be friendly and smile often
  • Ask for a business card after meeting for the first time. It will show your interest and provide a way for you to contact the person at the end of your encounter
Entering Conversations
  • Wait for a natural break and then calmly introduce yourself to everyone in the group
  • Establish eye contact with someone to  gain acknowledgment 
  • Ease yourself slowly into new conversations
Leaving Conversations
  • Wait for a natural break and then excuse yourself
  • Two common lines to consider are “Thanks for your time. I’d like to catch-up more later. I’ll shoot you a message via email/text” or “It was great speaking with you! I just saw someone I want to say hi to. I’ll talk to you again later”
After a networking event pat yourself on the back. It’s no small feat to put yourself out there and meet new people. Following your short celebration, it’s time to make note of the people you met and reach out with any potential follow-up items. Also, be sure to add them on LinkedIn

[Photo courtesy of Flickr user CieraHolzenthal]