Highlighting our recent webinar, “How to Network When You Don’t know What You Want to Do”
“Networking” has become one of those ubiquitous buzzwords, so overused that people start forgetting it actually ever had any meaning at all. In a basic sense it’s talking on a professional level with people who could possibly help you achieve your long-term career goals. But if having a concrete idea of your future is a prerequisite for networking, what do you do if you just don’t know yet?
Luckily, Career Happiness Coach Anna Graham Hunter helped us crack the code on networking, helping to show that you don’t need to have it all figured out to start forming professional connections. In fact, it’s probably better to start from a more open-minded perspective.
The first step is figuring out what you want to do with your life in more abstract terms. Easier said than done in a world where people in their 30s and 40s are still figuring out what they want to be when they grow up. However, all it takes is a little self-reflection.
In order to discover the general direction you’d like your career to go, ask yourself these three questions:
1) When have you felt most alive at work and what were you doing?
2) Which colleagues have brought out the best in you?
3) In which environment have you been most productive?
Don’t jump to the easy answers. Look within. What you discover about yourself and what you thought about your career may surprise you.
Anna then advises you to use these answers to formulate a “What Do You Want to Do?” Statement. This basically serves as a way to introduce your career aspirations when the answer is still more of a general idea.
To make it easier, here’s the MADLIB-style format:
“After several years of [highlight what you’ve accomplished and learned] I’m now exploring opportunities that will allow me to [describe tasks, people, and environments that comprise your goals in an abstract sense].”
Once you have your statement down, it’s time to start thinking about who you’d like to reach out to. When first establishing a connection, Anna recommends you reach out via e-mail where you should:
1) Introduce yourself.
2) Explain your intention (which is to learn more about the recipient’s industry, career history, or current role).
3) Ask if he/she would be free for a 20 minute call and provide a variety of times when you would be free.
When you finally get on the phone with someone, it’s your job to lead the conversation:
1) Ask if it’s still a good time to talk.
2) Thank the person for taking the time to speak.
3) State your intention.
4) Use the “What Do You Want to Do” statement.
5) Ask your first question!
Each person you’re talking to is going to have a different background, career history, and style of advice. Go into the call with the intention of learning. Even if you’re very interested in a particular person’s company, don’t ask him directly about open roles. Instead, you should be confident that if you effectively expressed your strengths and motivations, and a position happens to open up, the person will bring it up to YOU. In this way you’re making yourself the perused candidate rather than the one desperately grasping at jobs.
Finally, Anna recommends at the end of each call asking each and every person, “Who else should I talk to?” This question is the most important step because it’s the fastest most direct way to be introduced to new people who can help you grow in your career. Before you know it you’ll have grown your professional network and you’ll be at the top of people’s minds when that right job eventually opens up.
This post only scratches the surface, though! Check out the full webinar here to learn the complete ins and outs of networking. By the end you’ll have the confidence to build lasting professional connections, even if you’re not exactly sure where you want your career to wind up (and to be honest who is?).
Speaking of which, coming in on the ground floor at a startup is a great way to gain valuable experience in the workforce and can help you figure out what you want to do long-term. Head over to Lynxsy to discover what roles the startup world has to offer!
Connie Wong is the Co-Founder of Lynxsy, an organization that strives to match recent grads with non-technical roles at high growth startups. Lynxsy is building a talent marketplace that puts the individuality back into job hiring and searching. They believe that finding the right match takes more than just an interview (it’s kind of like dating) which is why Lynxsy provides a trial period where companies and candidates can get to know each other better before a long-term commitment.
Their vision is to provide a platform that’s not just job-seeking, but career making. A place where startups can find the best junior talent to build the best possible teams, and where recent graduates can get their foot in the door at the best companies to launch their careers. Learn more at http://www.lynxsy.com