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Networking Tips

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While it would make the introverts, the meek, the shy, and the novices awfully happy if the newspaper classifieds contained all job openings, that's simply not the case.

In fact, some of the best jobs aren't listed anywhere except in the mental catalogues of CEOs and managers. Some call it the hidden job market.

So how do you apply for jobs that aren't advertised anywhere, that exist only in the seemingly inaccessible minds of working America's movers and shakers?

You meet people who might have insight into your job search. You talk to people who know people who could help you out. You chat it up with strangers at parties. You cold-call people you've read about in the newspaper. You write cordial letters to prominent community leaders. You cultivate an arsenal of contacts.

In short, you network your way into the hidden job market. Think about networking as a game, as a sport, as a personal challenge. Below are some strategies for success.

Brainstorm for Networking Contacts

Think of everyone who could possibly serve as a contact. Don't limit yourself to people who could clearly help you out - friendly, accessible people in unrelated fields often have contacts they would be happy to share with you. Also, people who, through either work or volunteer activities, have contact with a diverse crowd can be extremely helpful. To get you started with your list, here are some suggestions:

Family friends Local politicians
Relatives Journalists
Neighbors Business executives
Professors Non-profit directors
Alumni Your physician
Former employees Your hair dresser
Former co-workers Prominent community members
Public relations officials Members of professional organizations
Religious leaders   

Tried and True Places to Network

Local alumni association Conventions
Class reunions Club meetings
Cocktail parties Internet Social Networks
Fundraisers Volunteer opportunities
Business conferences Continuing education classes

Prepare for Networking

Networking is a little like planning a political campaign. While it's essential that you are honest and relaxed, don't wing it. Just as politicians think about what they tactically need to accomplish, convey, and gain when they make an appearance or give a speech, approach networking opportunities with a game plan.

Before you confidently and charmingly sashay into a business conference room, a dinner party, or group event, do your homework. Find out who will be there, or do your best to list who you think will probably be present. Then decide who you would most like to meet. When you have your list of potential contacts, thoroughly research their work and their backgrounds and then make up some questions and conversational statements that reflect your research.

Finally, think critically about what your goals are for your networking function. What information do you want to walk away with? What do you want to convey to the people you meet? But, as is always true, it's important to be flexible and to perceive opportunities you didn't plan to confront.

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