Identify what you want to achieve from networking. Are you exploring a new field or just want to learn about it? Do some homework first — research the field, read up on organization websites, and join a professional association so you can be conversant and professional with your contacts. Don’t waste people’s valuable time with basic questions that you could answer with a few minutes of research.
You will be doing a lot of outreach, visits, emailing and following up with people. Get a system in place to track the details, using a spreadsheet such as Excel, or whatever else works for you.
Identify Your Inner Circle.
Inner circle contacts are people who know you personally and might be able to recommend you.
Categorize Your Contacts.
Categorize your contacts by levels of connection with you. For example, begin with your inner most circle of family and friends, to inner circle of coworkers and classmates, to outer circle of friends of friends, to prospects who are people you know of but don’t know you. Another way to categorize is by relevance to your job search. Most relevant would be people currently in your desired industry, to least relevant, like a best friend in a totally unrelated industry, but still may know someone who knows someone….
Leverage Your Existing Inner Circle Contacts.
Contact them via Linkedin, email or phone, with a message reaching out to re-establish the relationship. Ask how they have been and mention that you are soon launching a job search.
Ask Your Contacts.
Ask them to keep an eye out for relevant jobs for you, and to forward them along. Ask them to introduce you to people in your area of interest. Ask them to give you tips on the hiring process for their organization. Ask them to recommend you on Linkedin. Ask them to meet with you to chat and catch up! You have nothing to lose!
Maintain Your Relationships.
Maintain the relationship that you have established with your new and existing contacts, and do this on an ongoing basis, not just when you are job-seeking.
Do this by, for example, sending a note after every interview, not just an email, but a handwritten card. If you don’t have their address for a handwritten card, write them a Linkedin recommendation!