Monday, July 17, 2000


Networking can make you known in a new town

By Michael A. Crom
Gannett News Service

        QUESTION: My husband was recently transferred to a new town, and I want to find a job. I'm trained as a teacher, but I'd like to work in industry. I've discovered that my skills transfer nicely to employee development jobs. The problem is that I don't know where to begin. People tell me I need to network, but I find it hard to believe that in the cutthroat business world, people would help someone new like me. Yet I know I have to do something.— Sarah

        ANSWER: You've already done a lot of the work you need to find the right job. You've determined what area you'd like to work in and how your skills match the needs of those positions. Now you just have to tell people you're available.

        Networking is as simple as asking people what they do, presenting yourself well, and being helpful in return.

        You can begin by calling human resources departments and asking for “informational interviews” with people who hold jobs like those you're pursuing. Even better, however, are networking events. These are hosted by trade groups, professional groups and community business organizations so businesspeople can find out how others can help them.

        You'll find that most businesspeople are very helpful. Most of them have advanced in their careers via network ing and like the idea of passing along their knowledge. It's a basic business tactic and certainly nothing you should be nervous about.

        When you're attending a networking event, follow these tactics:

        Know who will be attending the event. You can get a list of attendees from the sponsoring organization. This helps you decide whom you'd like to meet.

        Arrive early. You want as much time to network as possible, of course, but arriving early gets you into contact with the event organizers and other early arrivers. It's a chance to meet people before the room becomes too crowded.

        Dress appropriately. Dress as though you're at a job interview, even if the event is supposed to be casual.

        Bring lots of business cards. I carry at least 100 cards for every networking event because many people take several to pass along to others in their company.

        Develop a personal 30-second “commercial” that communicates to others your knowledge and expertise. People will quickly ask you where you work or what you're looking for. Respond with a few sentences about your educational training and why you want to use your skills in the business world.

        Remember people's names and use them in conversation. As an educator, you know the value of this special “music.” People feel friendlier to those who call them by name.

        Spend most of your time with people you don't know. It's tempting to stay within your comfort zone, especially when you're new to a community. However, remember that you're there to do business, not socialize.

        Learn about other people before you start talking about yourself. Develop a few basic questions that will draw people out, then be a good listener. You can discover a great deal about your future career by listening to others.

        Offer to help others. End meetings and calls by asking, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” Have you read an article in a teachers' journal that might offer insight to a corporate trainer? Offer to send a copy.

        Be approachable. No matter how nervous you feel, act as though you're calm and having fun. People will naturally be attracted to you.

        Write personal thank-you notes to people who help you. This doesn't take long but builds a lasting impression.

        Follow through on your commitments. No matter how small the promise, your reputation is dependent on keeping it. And there's nothing like having people owe you favors.



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