Admit it, you would rather be golfing, reading, skiing, or sleeping. Every time you hear the word “networking” your head fills with images of germ-infested crudites, cheap wine, and people so boring you literally start reciting the lyrics to the "Star Spangled Banner" in your head while they are talking.
In a perfect world, your kick-booty resume, smiling personality and years of business school are all that would be needed to show the hiring world you are the one for the job. If only it worked that way!
I’ll start with the obvious here that social media has changed the way we display ourselves (for better or worse) to prospective employers (take a moment to review my article “Clean Up Your Space”).
Friends Have Friends: I know it is counter-intuitive to talk with friends and family, but that is exactly where to start. You already have a comfort zone of people who care about your welfare, and they’ll be the first ones to lend a hand making connections that you need. Talk with parents, siblings, cousins, friends, friends of friends, and even your spouse. You never know who knows someone in your field, or who may know someone that has a job opening you might not have considered before, but will consider now. This is the time to think things through, evaluate your personal and professional situation, and soak it all in. You don’t need to be “ON” for this first part of networking, and that’s the point: baby steps.
Time to Party: Instead of the above mentioned cocktail party, how about going to events at your church, your kids' soccer games, your neighbor’s garage party (that may be an Arizona thing) or meeting friends for cocktails or coffee? Again, you will be at your best if you are in familiar territory with people you know or somewhat know. Introductions are easier, you are relaxed (not drunk, please) and you can feel comfortable enough to let the conversation flow. Your ears will perk up when you hear about a potential opportunity, so practice those listening skills.
Meetup: There is a website that has gained a lot of fans here in New York City: http://www.meetup.com/. There are thousands of groups starting every day, as well as formed groups, and if you are a 30-year-old engineer from Bangladesh, there is a Meetup for you! I kid you not, I can’t believe the amount of groups that are on that site. You can choose by area, age, occupation, interests, and many more filters to find the Meetup for you.
Social Media: LinkedIn is probably the No. 1 destination for job seekers that need a utility site that can help them make connections. It is the “Facebook” of the professional set and I’ve actually talked to many folks who have used the site AND found jobs through it. It’s the more traditional form of networking, Internet style!