Tapping into your social network is a key component to streamlining your job search. But in today’s technological environment, we are all conditioned to think that means a virtual social network, as we utilize LinkedIn, Facebook, and others daily sites to stay connected with people who may lead us to new job opportunities. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be completely at ease relating to the world virtually. But what you may be giving up, by so heavily relying on this mode of interface is significant.
The art of social conversation is just that – an art – and maybe a dying one at that. Young professionals are particularly likely to be more comfortable typing and texting than actually speaking in person. Strong verbal communication skills are highly sought after in today’s competitive job market and will immediately set you apart from the pack. One of the best things you can do to get your next job is to practice this craft of interacting in person.
There are a number of professional events that lend themselves to naturally growing personal interaction skills in a fun and social way. Many local professional groups organize gatherings at local restaurants. Find out where local professionals are gathering to discuss your field of interest. Once you find where professionals are gathering, attend an event and start up a conversation with the organizer. The organizer of the event is probably the easiest person with whom to start a conversation and will likely introduce you to others. Even if you feel awkward about talking to a total stranger, know that you have already taken the first and most important step to improving your chances of getting that next job!
While meeting new people…
- Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself to others at the gathering. Give them a brief summary of your professional goals, if appropriate, and engage them in conversation. Make sure to ask questions so that you are able to find common ground to discuss.
- Follow up. Once you have met someone interesting who may lead you to some future contacts or opportunities, drop them a quick email or give them a call to say how much you enjoyed meeting them. Keep the doors of communication open.
- Keep the conversation lively. Don’t make it all about you or your job search. It is better to speak about yourself less and ask questions about the person you are talking with more. That makes you a more interesting person and more memorable, too.
- Avoid gossip. It causes people to question your trustworthiness. The person you are talking with thinks, “If you are talking about someone else’s private business, chances are you will talk about my personal business too.”
- Don’t push your agenda. This takes the social part out of it, and just makes your conversation a sales pitch, which makes you an unappealing conversationalist.
Of course, professional networking events are not the only place to hone your social, conversation, and self-presentation skills. You can get involved in your community in ways such as civic organizations, local sports clubs, alumni clubs, or special interest groups. You’ll automatically have things in common because you are from the same area, may go to the same church or restaurants, may have kids in the same schools, etc. Also, have some conversation starters in your repertoire that will lead to more questions and facilitate conversation flow.
With practice, you will get better at the art of conversation and really be able to represent yourself effectively and comfortably to people you meet. Not only will your network grow, but you will gain confidence in the process, which will be reflected in your next job interview.
The best way to get in the door to a highly coveted job remains knowing someone on the inside. Helpmates is proud to connect our specialists with some of the hottest jobs in Southern California. Contact us today for the introductions that might lead to your next career move!