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Career Column: Networking 101
What you need to know to get off the couch and start meeting the right people

Everyone knows it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Sort of. This basic idea will ring true for anyone who’s ever faced the sad task of endlessly submitting resumes as an anonymous applicant with no call back.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail showed one young person’s frustration with the continuous cycle of applying for jobs online, only to realize how hopeless the process can be. Hours spent filling out online applications forms end with the click of a Submit button, into the abyss of a de-personalized application process to a company you’ll likely never hear from.

There’s no easy solution to finding a job, but meeting people is a good place to start. So, here are a few tips to help you get off the couch and start networking.

1. Join professional associations: Almost all industries have professional associations and these groups offer a wide variety of opportunities to meet people via networking events or chances to volunteer. There are industry awards and professional seminars each of which provides the proximity you need to start naturally meeting people, not to mention learning more about your industry. By getting involved with the people in your industry, you might even be able to take the networking out of networking and meet people without the awkward card-exchange ritual.

2. Get on the scene: Toronto has a robust network of social events for young professionals, start-up enthusiasts and social meet-ups. Events like these introduce you to people in a variety of industries. Whether you want to meet more players in the social media community at events like the popular Third Tuesday Toronto meet-ups, or learn more about the GTA’s tech scene at the York Technology Alliance, there’s a ton of great events to find new contacts in this city.

3. Get over your inhibitions and make meeting people a goal: As Susan Cain points out in her very interesting book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, shy people tend to strategize and think through decisions. If this is a problem you’re having, don’t worry about walking into a room and meeting every person you see. We can’t all have the social gravity to pull others towards us, so start small and set obtainable goals for networking. Attend networking events with an idea of how many people you want to meet and make sure you hit that quota. Start by meeting five people at your first networking event and then try to meet 10 at your next outing. Over time you’ll get more comfortable with the sometimes awkward social nature of networking. You’ll also find that the more people you meet, the more people you’ll know everywhere you go!   

4. It doesn’t end after you’ve swapped cards: Be sure to follow-up with everyone you meet on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email. Don’t bombard people with messages, but some natural interaction online to supplement your meeting shows you are polite, thorough and keen. It’s also a good idea to see if some of the people you meet are interested in casual follow-up meetings. Invite people for coffee and pick their brains about the industry, their experience and where potential opportunities might exist.  

5. Don’t make it all about you: Whether it’s the first time you’ve met someone or the fifth, don’t make it all about you. Ask people about themselves and think of everyone you meet not as a simple contact, but a new person from whom you can learn things. Just because a new contact isn’t hiring, doesn’t meet they won’t think of you when they hear of interesting opportunities. Remember, everyone you meet has a network of their own, so being a good lobbyist for yourself means making the people you meet lobbyists for you. And since most people know the value of helping one another, if you make a good impression you’ll have new contacts singing your praises in no time.

____

Kiel Hume writes for Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter at @kielculture.

For more, follow us on Twitter at @torontostandard and subscribe to our Newsletter.


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