There really is an art to networking, and don't worry if your efforts haven't been paying off — workin' your contacts is a skill that can be learned. In this poor job market, people might be a little jaded about strangers reaching out to them for a job, so make sure you're being smart about your approach. Here are some things Fortune recommends to start doing in order to become a networking whiz:
- Build up a relationship before you ask for help. Don't get to know a person because you want to ask them for a job, work on building a relationship with the future possibilities in mind. And even if you don't get a job, perhaps your contact will be able to give you valuable career advice or maybe even make the right introductions. This is also known as having "a knack for spotting future opportunities,"Jonathan Kriendler, the founder of an online career management tools site, says. " . . . companies are like living organisms. Things change constantly. People retire or quit and new projects get launched, so new opportunities are always on the horizon . . . By putting yourself ahead of the curve, you find out about them in advance rather than after the fact."
- Remember details. Take note of conversations you've had with this person so you'll be able to reference back to them later.
- Listen and learn. Listen "twice as much as you talk." If you're doing more listening than talking, you'll be able to recognize trends and take advantage of them as they're happening or even before they take off.
- Share your knowledge. Go online and share your expertise with people. Build your name and reputation so others maybe start reaching out to you because of your visibility on the web. Answer questions on LinkedIn groups or check out Quora, which is sort of like a more professional version of Yahoo! answers.