If you’re looking to enter a career, find organizations or groups that represent members of that career and get involved in them. Be prepared to give your elevator speech before and after meetings. Collect business cards to help you keep track of who you’ve networked with. Follow-up with thank you notes or e-mails for everyone you network with. And try to be a useful contact yourself. Save articles or links on job hunting you can share with others. Tell them about my workshops.
Go to job fairs. The Illinois Dept. of Employment Security keeps a list of job fairs around the state on their site and, while some of them of them may be a really tough commute for you, they are the perfect places to network, even if you hate bothering people, because people who are hiring are there expressly for the purpose of networking with you.
The most important networking tip I can give you though is: be thorough, but also be fast. You want to be one of the first people who apply for the job you want. Many businesses will anticipate getting so many candidates that they have a cut-off number planned. Don’t delay to start networking. Start as soon as you leave here tonight, or even before then if you want to network with others in this room.
Okay, so you’ve done all the work up to this point – you’ve found a job, applied for the job, and won an interview. You’re most of the way there if you have an interview. The hirer thinks, based on what he or she knows about you so far, that you’re a good match for the job. But this is the biggest hurdle too, because you’ve got to outshine everyone else sitting there for an interview. Prepare for it. Be prepared for your clichéd interview questions -- like what are your strengths and weaknesses? – but also be prepared to demonstrate your decision making, problem solving, leadership, motivation, communication, interpersonal skills, planning and organization, critical thinking skills, team building, and your ability to influence others – preferably with one good example of each.
Be prepared, not just for questions, but in knowing everything you can for this interview. Where are you applying? Learn everything you can about the company. If it’s a public place you’re applying to work at, ask for a tour of it well before the interview. Who are you interviewing with? Know the person’s name and how to pronounce it, even if you have to call the company in advance to ask them how it’s pronounced. Where are you interviewing? Know the route to get there and how long it takes. Don’t trust Mapquest or Google Maps – drive it once yourself before the interview. Make sure you are on time or within 15 minutes early. And practice interviewing with someone else before the real interview.
You’re going to make your first impression within your first minute of meeting the interviewer, but it’s not just a question of saving up your strength for that first minute. You’re going to be making first impressions every moment after you walk onto that business’ property and you don’t know whether the people you meet talk to your interviewer or not. Hold doors for people. Compliment the secretary, receptionist, or whoever shows you to the interviewer. It could all get back to him later. Look confident and smile at people. During the interview, have something in your hand like a pen if you’re nervous about your hands. Make sure you mention how much you want the job. Get the name and contact information of the interviewer so you can send a thank-you note or call with a thank you.
Remember, if you make it as far as the interview, this job is yours to lose. You would not even have the interview if someone there didn’t think you were a good match for this job already. So go into that interview with some confidence. You’re almost there!