Networking is not all about you. It is not about collecting business cards from an event like charms for a bracelet, or having dinner every night of the week with a "dear" friend. It is about you making a connection with another person.
One of the most common complaints I hear from jobseekers is that they just don't know that many people—how are they supposed to network?
And then those that do start to attend networking events don't seem to be making any headway. So everyone gets frustrated with the whole process, throws up their hands and gives up.
So why should you keep trying? I feel confident (even though I haven't tried it myself), that if you Google to find anecdotes about how jobseekers landed their positions, many will say that they did it through networking—so it is possible.
Here's what I see are people's most common mistakes.
1. Knowing where to look to find networking groups.
First place to check—meetup.com. Depending on where you live, there are a variety of activities and groups posted that do everything from dog walking, wine tasting, movie watching to business networking. Sometimes these groups are posted on Yahoo.com. It's free to sign up to attend events on Meetup—they charge the organizers so unless the event itself has an admission price, it's free to check it out. Get outside your comfort zone to meet new people. Don't see a group that interests you-start one! You can publicize a meeting on LinkedIn. If an association is having a meeting—call them to see if they are looking for volunteers to staff the front desk, and if not—do they have a separate admission price for people in transition? If you don't ask, you won't know. DO NOT exclusively attend groups of jobseekers - branch out to meet different people from different industries. Look at everything you do as an opportunity to meet a new friend.
Some other good places to look are eventbrite.com and just searching for activities on Facebook. You should also look for professional organizations for your industry, or for those people who would be hiring you. Want to get a job as a Marketing Assistant? Then go to the event for the American Marketing Association and talk to the potential hiring managers there.
2. I've moved around the country several times, and one of the most memorable ways I made a friend was just by asking her.
We'd both moved to Atlanta a few months prior and were still struggling to meet people. I asked her if she'd like to be friends and just go out to a movie once in a while. Simple, direct, and applicable since we were in the same boat and knew what the other person was going through. So don't be afraid to strike up a conversation.
3. When you're at a networking event, it's not about walking in with the expectation that people are going to run up to you with hot job leads.
It's about meeting people that you want to continue the conversation with later.
4. Uncomfortable approaching people?
Unfailing opening line-give them a compliment. Tell them a little about yourself and your experience, then ask them about what they do. While they're talking (which takes the focus off of you), listen for ways that you can demonstrate similarities in your background. That provides an easy way to establish common ground and a basis for setting up a future lunch or coffee date.
5. You can't expect that someone you meet once at an event is going to naturally refer job leads to you and provide a personal referral into a company.
That's not a relationship. People refer leads and look out for people who are their friends, people they like and trust. Meeting someone once and expecting it to open some amazing doors does happen—on occasion—but your goal should always be to build relationships outside of those gatherings.
6. Unsure what to talk about in an informational interview?
Do research on what's going on in the industry and trends that can affect the company. It's understood that you don't have insider knowledge of their business, but there's no better way to demonstrate your intelligence by instigating a stimulating conversation, rather than "do you have any ideas about where I could find a job?" Show them your commitment and interest. I'm more likely to remember and recommend someone who proved themselves a smart cookie than someone who focused the conversation on their resume and prior jobs.