Recently, I overheard someone compare networking to using people, which is so not true! You offer those in the network the same opportunities and connections they offer you.
It is shocking that in 2010, with the current economy, people are not only not networking, but are refusing to acknowledge that who you know might be the difference between landing a job and remaining unemployed.
Networking is nothing more than cultivating business based friendships and acquaintances. This is something you should be doing whether or not you are looking for a new job.
At the minimum, networking makes you better at meeting people. Meeting and talking with a stranger is just like a job interview. You want to present your best side. The stranger may be your foot in the door at their employer or may know of an upcoming opening. If you never introduce yourself, you’re potentially missing out on excellent opportunities.
If you are uncomfortable with just walking up to someone and introducing yourself, find a mutual friend or colleague and ask her to introduce you.
According to this article from ciscopress.com, “Studies indicate that the cost of hiring through ‘traditional’ methods (recruiters, want ads, and so on) range from $20,000–$40,000 per hire. In contrast, the cost of hiring through referrals and networks is $0. Studies have also found that those hired through referral and social networks—people known by others in the company—have less turnover and make more money than their counterparts hired through formal hiring methods.”
To be successful at networking, you need to have a standard introduction, usually your name, current position and an outside interest. Be prepared to shorten this to simply, “hi, I”m Aurora” in certain situations. Be memorable by asking questions of the person you are meeting such as, “how did you get into [field]?”
After meeting the person (and hopefully exchanging business cards!), be sure to write on the back where you met the person and a few details about what you talked about.