Learn how to network your way to a new job with confidence.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our latest edition of #OfficeHours, presented by TopResume! This time, I was joined by Deena Baikowitz, Chief Networking Officer and co-founder of Fireball Network, to discuss how you can become a more confident and efficient networker online and offline.

Why networking is important for your job search

Networking is important at every stage of your career; however, it takes on even greater importance when you’re searching for work. Consider this:

  • It’s estimated that approximately 50 percent of all job opportunities are never published.

  • Multiple studies have found you’re 10 times more likely to land the job when your application is accompanied by a referral.

Related: The Importance of Networking (and How to Do It Well)

In addition to helping you discover new job leads and land valuable referrals, a strong professional network can help you bypass the applicant tracking system, explore new career directions, access valuable job-search resources, and develop the skills required to pursue your dream job.

Below are some of the highlights of our conversation, a link to the Facebook Live Chat video, and a summary of Deena’s and my answers to your networking questions. For more career advice and information about upcoming events, like us on Facebook and sign up for our free weekly newsletter.

#OfficeHours: How to network to get work

Related: How to Expand Your Professional Network

Your networking questions answered

What should my business cards look like if I’m currently unemployed?

“What should my business cards say if I’m unemployed and searching for a job?” — Elham

Be sure to include the same contact information on a business card that you would include on your resume: name, phone number, email address, a customized link to your public LinkedIn profile, and — if appropriate — links to your personal website, online portfolio, and other social media channels. You can use the professional title from the top of your resume or your LinkedIn profile's headline in the place where you’d normally list your current job title and employer’s name.

Above all, your business cards should reflect your personal brand. Regardless of your employment status, your business cards should be distinctly yours and express who you are as a professional.

How long should I spend talking to someone at a networking event, and how do I end a conversation?

“What do you do when you get stuck talking to someone at a networking event and you don’t want to talk to them anymore?” — Jennifer

When making networking connections, it’s important to remember that quality is more important than quantity — meeting one valuable new contact will serve you better than many poor ones. If you’re having a fulfilling conversation with someone and making a strong connection, stay with it! You may not meet as many people, but this one, solid contact will be more valuable to you in the long run.

If you feel like it’s time to end a conversation, politely let the person know that you want to go work the room or meet the speaker. Being gracious and considerate is the key to closing a new networking conversation with professionalism. Ask for the person’s business card or contact information, thank them for their time, and promise to connect on LinkedIn. Make sure that, when you walk away, they know you appreciated everything they offered during your conversation.

Should I use social media to network for work?

“Is social media a good way to network?” — Elham

Social media, when leveraged appropriately, can be a valuable addition to your networking strategy. Every social media channel operates a little differently — for example, Facebook is geared toward your personal connections whereas LinkedIn is regarded as a professional networking platform — and will require you to approach your networking activities differently to suit the environment.

Overall, it’s about engaging with the people and accounts that genuinely interest you and are related to your career goals. As you start interacting and building rapport with people in these virtual environments, look for opportunities to take this new relationship offline. You can start by sending an email with a personal message and setting up a phone call or coffee date. This step in the networking process is paramount because it’s what helps you make the leap from being a social-media follower to a true network connection.

Related: How to Leverage Social Media to Connect with Potential Employers

How do I ask someone I meet at a networking event to be my mentor?

“If you meet someone who is very established in the industry you want to get into, how can you ask them to be your mentor?” — Riel

You shouldn’t ask someone you just met to be your mentor right off the bat; these kinds of relationships take time to develop. We recommend approaching this contact as you would any other potential new networking connection. Connect with the person online after the event and look for opportunities to pay it forward. Instead of approaching the person to be your mentor, try setting up an informational interview to pick the person’s brain. Continue to nurture this relationship over time and, if it’s a good match, your relationship will evolve organically.

How do I follow up with the people I meet while networking? How soon should I do it?

“After I’ve met someone, how do I follow up with them?” — Elham

Start by sending a LinkedIn connection request a day or two after first meeting someone. When sending the request, never send a blank invite. Doing so can come across as impersonal and lazy, which is the opposite of how you want a new connection to see you. Instead, always include a personalized note; it can be as simple as telling the person that it was “Nice to meet you at XYZ event!” This is also helpful for you because later down the road, you can reference this message if you need a reminder of how you met.

Beyond simply connecting on LinkedIn, one of the best ways you can follow up with new contacts is to look for opportunities to pay it forward. For example, if you see an article or learn about an event that your new connection would enjoy, send it their way. By offering something that may be of value, you establish yourself as an authority and earn their gratitude.

Click on the following link for more networking advice.

Your resume should be as strong as your networking skills. How does yours stack up? Submit for a free resume critique and we’ll tell you.

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