Your first, fifth or even 10th person that you meet at a networking event - formal or otherwise - may not lead to a job, but your 11th or 17th might. Or maybe that first one will - later on.
Networking is seldom predictable or fast. Many people give up after attending an event or two, wondering why their phone isn't ringing, despite the fact that they handed out 20 business cards.
Instead of viewing networking activities as single events that will produce a job, view them collectively as an ongoing research project. Every bit of information that you collect is valuable. Think of it as yet another venue that you can proactively explore to enhance your career.
If you expect to land a job right away, you'll probably be disappointed. Career Coach Alva Parker says that you should:
- Focus on meeting one or two people per event who could refer you to someone else.
- Think about what makes you want to do business with someone - whether it's continual exposure to a person or a company, expertise through writings and/or presentations, or a testimonial about them from a person you respect. "For me, there are many answers," says Parker. "Often, it is some combination of these."
- Choose methods of marketing yourself that make you memorable and trusted.
Every networking contact that you make is progress toward your goal. That goal just needs to be redefined, from getting a job offer to building your professional relationship bank - one contact at a time.