Connecting with other people is vital if you’re looking to enter the job market or are out of a job, insecure about your job’s stability, want to make a career change or are looking for advancement.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 12.3 million workers were unemployed as of January 2013. Among those who are employed, many — such as the 66 percent of mothers who work full- or part-time and struggle with the conflicting needs of work and family — continually strive to find careers that are the best fit for their families and their financial needs.
Good networking skills also can make a difference in whether you get hired. One study found that people rated medical performance higher for medical residents they knew, suggesting that even the slightest of personal knowledge can give you an edge.
Other studies suggesting that even knowing a political candidate’s name can sway a voter, supporting the concept that having some connection with potential employers might give you a boost (Monitor on Psychology, July/August 2012).
So what can you do, to make that all important first connection?
The Monitor on Psychology had a few suggestions for psychology graduate students. But it’s good advice that can apply to any person pursuing any career (July/August 2012).
- Attend an industry convention or networking meeting with a plan.Review the presenters ahead of time and map out who you’d like to meet. Prepare a few sentences about their accomplishments or interests and why you want to meet them.
- Ask questions.It can be intimidating to approach others, but most people like to talk about themselves. Asking questions can prompt a genuine discussion.
- Seek similarities.One study found improved rapport between strangers who self-disclose. The idea here is to find ways in which you are like the people you want to connect with. For example, you grew up in the same state, have a similar hobby or root for the same sports team.
- Give yourself 50 percent of the spotlight.Sometimes when we’re looking for a job, we feel we need to sell ourselves and end up self-focused the whole time. Try to keep the conversation balanced. If you find you’re monopolizing the conversation, ask a question.
- Take a note from dating research and balance friendliness with aloofness.Want to avoid an awkward dating situation? Balance warmth with a focus on the other person. The same can hold true for creating a quick impression with someone you’ve just met. Avoid extremes of friendliness and detachment. Think warm, but not overly eager.
- Meet other people in the same situation as you.You might think you only want to meet people in a position to hire, but other people who are looking or who have jobs in the field you’re interested in often make recommendations. They can also keep you informed of possible job openings and may have advice from their own experience.
Young business couple photo available from Shutterstock