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(© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.)
(© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.)

Strategy

Network your way into a great new job Add to ...

If you’re seeking employment or looking to take the next step in your career, this is the year you should focus less on the open bar and those trays of tempting hors d’oeuvres and more on maximizing events to make connections, author Maribeth Kuzmeski says.

“If you go into them armed and ready to make the most of your time with everyone you encounter, you just might walk away with a ton of new job contacts and maybe even an interview.”

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Ms. Kuzmeski is an expert at helping businesses and individuals create strong business relationships that will help them get ahead regardless of their professions.

“Great networkers are capable of leaving something behind with everyone they encounter — a thought, a memory, or a connection. This is exactly what you need to do if you are currently in the job market. You need to make strong connections, become a relationship builder. You want to be the first person who comes to mind when someone in your network hears about a great job opening.”

The author of …And the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business They Want, offers advice for how you can network your way to a great new job in 2011:

Think like an introvert — if you have to go, have a plan.

Social events can be nerve-racking, especially when you have so much on the line, as many unemployed partygoers will. But instead of succumbing to your clammy hands and being a wallflower all night, formulate a plan of action ahead of time that will help you make the most of every event. Doing so will ensure that you make all the right connections, and it will help alleviate all that pre-party social anxiety.

“First, think about which contacts are the most important to you — maybe the HR rep for a company you’ve been eyeing is there or maybe there are a few people you want to ask about possible openings at their companies — and make a point to speak to each of them during the event, instead of hiding behind the dessert bar the entire night,” Ms. Kuzmeski says. “Find out who will be attending the event. Do some research online or on social networking sites like LinkedIn to learn about attendees.

“You may even want to consider asking the host for a guest list. Pick five people with whom you definitely want to speak while you are there, and don’t avoid the big names. Make sure you challenge yourself by making an effort to connect with at least one top dog.”

Let them do the talking. (You ask the questions.)

There’s nothing worse than coming away from a great networking opportunity realizing that you never got to the point. For example, maybe you learned a big-time CEO’s favourite basketball team, but you have no idea if he is planning on hiring in the new year. As you work the crowds, be sure to have more in your arsenal than small talk. Ms. Kuzmeski suggests coming up with a list of questions to use on your fellow party guests. Here are a few great ice breakers to get the ball rolling:

Where did you grow up? Do you still have family there? How are your kids? What do you think about…? (Complete this question with something from current events, your town or city’s local news, or a recent event in your industry. Remember, it is always a good idea to avoid topics that can lead to contentious conversations, such as religion or politics.)

Once the conversation is flowing freely, then you can move on to the questions that might help you land the new job: How did your company do this year? I heard you have a great (fill in your expertise) department. Do you think you will be expanding any time soon? What’s your biggest challenge? (After you hear the answer to this one, if you can, describe how you might be able to help this new contact overcome his challenge.)

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