Nowadays, getting your dream job is not just about what you know, it is more on who you know. Did you know that 80% of jobs are not posted? This is the reason why networking is essential in conducting an effective job search.

Networking is one of the most valuable but least appreciated elements in job search. This should not always be the case because your network is part of your value to your employer. The longer and more diverse your network, the better. The more events you attend, the more people you meet and the larger and more valuable your network will become.

How to Build and Maintain Your Professional Network

Here are 25 tips on how you can build and maintain your professional network:

  1. Two-thirds of all jobs are secured via the networking process. Networking is a systematic approach to cultivating formal and informal contacts for the purpose of gaining information, enhancing visibility in the market, and obtaining referrals.
  2. Effective networking requires self-confidence, poise, and personal conviction.
  3. You must first know the companies and organizations you wish to work for. That will determine the type of network you will develop and nurture.
  4. Focus on meeting the “right people.” This takes planning and preparation.
  5. Target close friends, family members, neighbors, social acquaintances, social and religious group members, business contacts, teachers, and community leaders.
  6. Include employment professionals as an important part of your network. This includes headhunters and personnel agency executives. They have a wealth of knowledge about job and market conditions.
  7. Remember, networking is a numbers game. Once you have a network of people in place, prioritize the listing so you have separated top-priority contacts from lower-priority ones.
  8. Sometimes you may have to pay for advice and information. Paying consultants or professionals or investing in Internet services is part of the job search process today, as long as it’s legal and ethical.
  9. Know what you want from your contacts. If you don’t know what you want, neither will your network of people. Specific questions will get specific answers.
  10. Ask for advice, not for a job. You should not contact someone asking if they know of any job openings. The answer will invariably be no, especially at higher levels. You need to ask for things like industry advice, advice on geographic areas, etc. The job insights will follow but will be almost incidental. This positioning will build value for you and make the contact person more comfortable about helping you.
  11. Watch your attitude and demeanor . Everyone you come in contact with is a potential member of your network. Demonstrate enthusiasm and professionalism at all times.
  12. Keep a file on each member of your network and maintain good records . A well-organized network filing system or database will yield superior results.
  13. Get comfortable on the telephone. Good telephone communication skills are critical.
  14. Travel the “information highway.” Networking is more effective if you have email, fax, and computer capabilities.
  15. Be ready for your conversation, whether in person or over the phone. You should have a script in your mind of how to answer questions, what to ask, and what you’re trying to accomplish.
  16. Do not fear rejection. If a contact cannot help you, move on to the next contact. Do not take rejection personally—it’s just part of the process.
  17. Flatter the people in your network. It’s been said that the only two types of people who can be flattered are men and women. Use tact, courtesy, and flattery.
  18. If a person in your network cannot personally help, advise, or direct you, ask for referrals.
  19. Keep in touch with the major contacts in your network on a monthly basis. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
  20. Don’t abuse the process. Networking is a two-way street. Be honest and brief and offer your contacts something in return for their time, advice, and information. This can be as simple as a lunch, or offering your professional services in return for their cooperation.
  21. Show an interest in your contacts. Cavette Robert, one of the founders of the National Speakers Association, said, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Show how much you care. It will get you anywhere.
  22. Send thank-you notes following each networking contact.
  23. Seek out key networking contacts in professional and trade associations.
  24. Carry calling cards with you at all times to hand out to anyone and everyone you come in contact with. Include your name, address, phone number, areas of expertise, and/or specific skill areas.
  25. Socialize and get out more than ever before. Networking requires dedication and massive amounts of energy. Consistently work on expanding your network.

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