Networking is without a doubt the most reliable arrow in any job hunterâ€™s quiver in the new wilds of the U.S. job market.
It wasnâ€™t that long ago that a college education represented a benchmark of future success in America, but recent polls conducted by the Pew Research Center show people have lost their faith in countryâ€™s system of higher education, and that the purported value is no longer worth the rising costs.
Now more than ever itâ€™s about who you know rather than what you know, but networking is not a skill that comes naturally. Avoiding the five mistakes discussed below will help keep you on a productive path in your networking efforts while on the job hunt.
1. Donâ€™t Burn Bridges
Whether itâ€™s the professor with the bad grade, the past employer with unfavorable performance reports or the jerk at the club with all the connections â€“ but is still a jerk â€“ it can never be predicted if and when these people will prove useful in a job hunt.
A common perception when facing a person like this is that there are plenty of networking opportunities in the sea, so to speak, and that flaming someone who deserves it is a small price to pay for feeling vindicated. The reality, though, is that person may prove to be a golden goose in the future, and slaughtering it could be a huge mistake.
2. Donâ€™t Go (Too) Public
Employers are showing increasing interest in their employeesâ€™ Facebook and other social networking site habits to ensure their companies are not associated with questionable content. This should be an incentive for job hunters to adjust their Facebook profiles accordingly in the event their page is visited by a prospective employer, thus making it more viable as a networking tool.
This might seem easy enough, but Facebook is constantly changing privacy parameters and some people may not even be aware what information can be viewed in a simple Google search. The best policy is to only reveal personal data to friends, and always refrain from posting photos and text with questionable content.
3. Donâ€™t Forget to Follow Up
A firm handshake and a winning smile are only half of the networking protocol. The unvarnished truth is that people are quick to forget a new contact if they are not given a good reason to remember it. Building connections is a process that doesnâ€™t end with the introduction.
Some people waffle on what to say in a follow-up email, and thatâ€™s natural because there is no right way to make the first move. A reliable approach is to reference the meeting, express interest in knowing more about the person or business at issue, and sign off with a call to action (e.g., â€śI look forward to hearing from you about your recommendation on attending the conference.â€ť)
4. Donâ€™t Skimp on SWAG
This may be the Digital Age, but there most will agree that there is always room for SWAG â€“ Stuff We All Get. For the job hunter, this amounts to a stellar resume and a business card kept at the ready for quick deployment at job fairs, club meetings, conferences and evenings out.
It may seem like a stretch for a job hunter to have a business card, but this could be as simple as a device used to drive contacts to a personal Web page where they can find more information. It can include a name, address, phone number, email address and Web address. Add a memorable design and a snappy tagline, and this can be an excellent networking tool.
5. Donâ€™t Give Up
Itâ€™s impossible to know when a networking opportunity will arise, and itâ€™s very easy to get discouraged when efforts go unrewarded. This is the best time to redouble those efforts and keep in mind that everyone is facing challenges in the post-recession economy.
Persistence can pay off and the squeaky wheel often gets the grease, especially when a job hunter engages in networking in a specific industry within a targeted geographic location. Again, networking is a process, and the more connections a person cultivates in a particular niche the more the good word will spread.
Avoiding networking mistakes is as easy as imagining you are at your motherâ€™s birthday party in every contact you make. Keep your skeletons in the closet, bring a present, be nice and donâ€™t stoop to arguing with Uncle Fred, and you canâ€™t go wrong.
This article was written by Chuck Sipe who works as the editor of Criminal Justice Degree Schools, a website providing information for people interested in learning more about a career in the criminal justice field.