Network Like a Pro

Published on 08 July 2010 by Kelly Riggs in Career Building


1404827 med 217x300 Network Like a ProIn the 21st century, finding gainful employment means mastering the fine art of networking. Clearly, social networking tools are a part of that landscape, but the most important networking skills are still those face-to-face interpersonal skills that many people are completely uncomfortable with.

Starting a conversation with a complete stranger – at a so-call “networking” event or at other chance meeting times – can be an intimidating exercise. Even people who are outgoing and comfortable with meeting new people can drive right into the ditch if they are too aggressive or lack social awareness.

There is, in fact, a precarious balance between “I am looking for the right opportunity” and “I desperately need a job.” For whatever reason, desperation just doesn’t play well with others. Strategic career planning, on the other hand, is eminently professional (“No, I haven’t found the position that fits my career plan”). The difference – in networking – is how you approach the task of meeting people and discussing your situation.

First, in any networking opportunity, you must be come prepared. You should have carefully rehearsed your answers to the following questions:

What do you do? (“I’m unemployed” or,”I’m between jobs” probably doesn’t leave the impression your looking for.)

What happened? (“My boss was an idiot” or “They just didn’t understand me” rarely results in a referral to a job opportunity.)

What are you looking for? (“Anything I can find” or “Something to pay the bills” sounds more like commodity than valuable resource.

Second, you should present yourself in a way that communicates success. Look the part. Dress appropriately. Shine your shoes. Have a nice pen in your notebook or jacket. Professional dress and conduct leads people to believe that you would be professional in the workplace.

Third, you need to be way more interested in finding out about other people than you are in telling others about you. Networking is a lot easier when you are focused on listening rather than talking. Eventually, the other person will ask about you (see the questions above) and you will get the opportunity to see if there is a connection for you. The interesting thing is that the better the listener you are, the more apt the other person is to listen and consider what you have to say.

Don’t know how? Don’t know what to ask? Use POGO – a technique from world famous motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar:

P – First, ask about the person. What does he do? Where does he work? Where did he go to school? Does he have any kids? Those kinds of questions.

O – Second, ask about the organization. How long has he worked there? What does he like about the company? Who does the company do business with? These are questions about the company he works for.

G – Third, ask about the company’s goals. How is his company, or department, doing? Are they reaching their goals? How is the economy affecting their progress?

O – Finally, ask about the obstacles the company has encountered. What has been your company’s biggest challenge? How have you worked around it? What do you see coming in the future that might be a challenge to reaching your goals?

You certainly don’t have to ask these exact questions, nor do you have to hit all four areas in any conversation. However, using this simple acronym – POGO – will prompt you to ask useful questions that lead to a productive dialogue. By the way, you will find out a lot about that company, as well as the industry they work in, and that is always valuable knowledge to have for future conversations!

2 Responses to “Network Like a Pro”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by 360JobInterview and Jason Monastra. Jason Monastra said: Network Like a Pro | blog: There is, in fact, a precarious balance between “I am looking for … [...]

  2. [...] job hunting can damage your psyche and erode your self-confidence. The key is to stay focused and network like crazy. Talk to the local Chamber of Commerce to find out about job opportunities; attend [...]