In your everyday world, the casual encounters of your daily routine can open up a network of connections with limitless possibilities. Consider some of the common–and not so common–places where people are networking offline in my last post, “Advance Your Career with Community Contacts.”
So, now that you know where to look for contacts, how can you maximize your opportunity?
Start off slow.
Remember to be friendly and ask questions during the conversation that let you learn more about the person. If there are mutual areas of interest, offer a business card or ask if the person can share his or her business card with you. Ask if it is ok to contact him or her in the future.
Remember that social settings require social tact.
While the person you just met has great potential as a business contact, remember your environment and keep the conversation light. You don’t want to come on too strong or pushy at, say, a July 4th celebration at a park. Save the tough questions for a later time.
Change the topic if the person seems uncomfortable or not willing to talk about work in a social setting.
Look for cues like looking away, over or around you; or physically edging away from you and/or towards others. Or, maybe they provide you with very short answers and try to change the subject back to something related to the social outing. If this happens, ask if it would be better to speak with them back at the office and offer your contact card.
It’s okay to talk about your interests, your career goals and plans. But try to stay within points of mutual interest. If the person doesn’t feel too pressured, he or she will be open to future contact or even provide you with a referral to someone they know is hiring.
With all of these opportunities to meet people, you might feel pressured to have your resume in your back pocket at all times.
An easier approach may be to have a personal business card that includes your LinkedIn profile URL or even a QR code that takes users to any of your online profiles. QR codes can be scanned by a smartphone to take users directly to a specified web page. Sites like Qurify.com can generate the codes for you. Even better, a new, fun contact card is called a Meme Profile Trading card . These cards provide a snapshot of your skills and a link to your online profiles and often have a QR code included on their design.
Seizing opportunities to network in person is essential to a successful career and job search. Take the time now to mentally prepare for these exchanges and you’re sure to leave an impression.
Michele is a Senior Recruiter for Sodexo, a world leader in quality of daily life solutions that contribute to the progress of individuals and the performance of organizations. As a former assistant director at the University of Maryland University College’s Career and Cooperative Education Center, she’s no stranger to students trying to plan their careers. During that time, she worked with non-traditional college students to gain school credit for on the job work experience. Michele also taught seminars on job searching, resume writing and interview techniques, and partnered with local employers to help students gain employment. At Sodexo, she has continued her interest in shaping student careers by serving as a mentor to an intern in the company’s Future Leaders Program. Michele began her recruitment career in 1999, joining Sodexo in 2008 where she recruits for a range of food, facilities and environmental services positions. Michele holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland College Park (go Terps), is a charter member of a Baltimore area Toastmasters chapter, and a Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR) and Certified Diversity Recruiter (CDR). When not giggling with her two girls, Michele enjoys writing … and watching the Yankees win, much to the dismay of her husband. Join her on LinkedIn or just Network with Us at Sodexo.