3.3 Developing your face-to-face networking skills
With over 70 per cent of jobs not advertised online, you’ll find that a number of employers privately refer to their professional networks to fill vacancies. This means that face-to-face or online networking should be high on your list of priorities. You have already looked at online networking so, in this section, you will consider what you can do to increase your confidence about meeting new people and face-to-face networking. This is important as developing your networking skills will help you with interviews at a later stage of your job search.
Activity 6 Create and practise your elevator pitch
A well-known technique for business networking is what is known as the elevator pitch. This is based on an imaginary situation where you happen to be in a lift with someone who could potentially be influential or perhaps invest in your company, so you need to know in advance what key message you want to convey in a short space of time. Having this sort of speech prepared allows you to make the most of situations when you meet new people and they ask you ‘what do you do’. Instead of being stuck for words and talking about what you used to do or apologetically saying ‘I’m just a mum…’, you can say something positive about what your aspirations are and that you are aiming to return to work.
Prepare a short summary of who you are and what you are hoping to do when you return to work. It should be no more than one minute long. Next, practise your pitch a couple of times so that it comes naturally and you can use it to introduce yourself in networking situations. Think of this as the face-to-face version of the profile summary that you prepared earlier for your LinkedIn site.
Activity 7 Practise your body language
Before you start meeting people, think about your body language, and how this can also affect your confidence and how you present yourself to others. It’s well known that other people will respond to tiny clues and subtle ways in which our bodies give subliminal messages. However, what is less well known is that your posture changes your own level of confidence too. Even a couple of minutes of adopting a different posture can help you feel more confident, which will be reflected in how others perceive you and will, in turn, increase your chances of networking and interview success.
If you would like to explore this further you might like to watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on body language [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .
If you have time, try to put these two pieces together – the elevator pitch and your body language. Find a quiet place and a time where you can practise your elevator pitch in front of the mirror, using the techniques that Amy has outlined. It will probably feel weird at first, but persevere until you are familiar with it. What does it feel like? Do you feel different when you adopt a more assertive and open posture?