Networking; everybody promotes it these days as something people looking for work or looking to advance in their work should do. “But how do I get going? What do I say? I don’t even know what networking really is in the first place!”
Networking is having conversations with people about topics that go beyond the original reason for speaking. By way of example, you go in and buy a hammer at the hardware store and talk about two or three different styles before buying one. Essentially the clerk interviewed you to determine what your needs are, but then the sale was made and you walked out. No networking happened even though you talked to each other. Now you go back and buy a tape measure. Again he asks a few things:
“What do you need it for and how long?”
“I’m helping a neighbour frame his basement and 45′ should do it.”
“Done this kind of thing before or first time?”
“Oh yes. I’m a framer by trade; looking for full-time work actually, having recently moved to this area.”
“I might know a guy. Many contractors buy their supplies here. You should leave me your name and number.”
“I’ll do better than that. I’m just a few doors down, I’ll bring you back a resume to pass on if that’s okay.”
“Sure thing. My name is Nick. You ask for me.”
The original reason for the conversation was to buy a tape measure but you can see the conversation expanded and soon it had moved beyond a tape measure and the opportunity to talk about work and job searching was seized. Networking; a conversation where the topic went beyond the original reason for speaking.
Fair enough but who to network with? Could I suggest the answer is everybody? One of my co-workers shared a tool she came across some time ago. It’s called a FRANK list. Under each of the 5 letters in the word, “FRANK” there is a column for you to write down people you know who are a good fit in the column. ‘F’ is for Friends, ‘R’ is for Relatives, ‘A is for Acquaintances, ‘N’ is for Neighbours, and the ‘K’ is for Kids.
For the purposes of this exercise, you would write down everyone you know who should fall into one of the categories. Your Dentist, the Dental Receptionist, the Bus Driver on your route, he kid who delivers the papers, the guy at the hardware store, your mom and dad, former teachers, the neighbour two units down, EVERYBODY. At this stage what you don’t do, is mentally rule out people you know but don’t want to talk to. So yes, your ex-spouse goes down, the brother you don’t talk to, the guy who picks up your garbage etc. This is a brainstorming exercise after all at this point.
Now the natural instinct when you are out of work is to tell as few people as necessary. We don’t want our shame or unemployed status to be shared with everyone out of a sense of personal pride, but the second we get a job, we’ll be telling everyone the good news! How ironic. Ironic? Why is that ironic? It’ ironic because right now would actually be the ideal time to tell all those people we’re looking for work and put our resume in all those people’s hands! In other words, because we never know exactly where our next job will come from, it could very well come directly or indirectly from one of the people we currently know. If they don’t know we are even looking for work or what work we are looking for, how could they possibly think of us when opportunities arise that they hear of?
Now in the case of the paper boy who I mentioned earlier, ‘kids’ is the final column and I want to clarify how that column works. Don’t think for a minute I’m going to take my newspaper with my left hand and with my right hand give him my resume and say, “Hey kid, know anyone who’s hiring a Framer?” That’s funny.
Here’s what I did just two weeks ago however. I actually came home just in time to catch the new newspaper boy walking up my driveway with the paper. He introduced himself as Jack, and Jack’s mom was pulling the wagon as she walked him around on his initial delivery route. After saying hello to Jack and showing him where I’d like him to put my paper, I walked down the driveway, introduced myself to his mom, and found out they live a block over from me. Then I pulled out a business card of mine and handed it to her. Jack came and got the next paper and walked to the next house while we too chatted about what she did and my job.
Now just imagine that scene if I was looking for work. I’d be seizing that chance to tell the woman what I was looking for in terms of a job, and instead of my business card, I’d be putting a resume in her hands and asking her to keep me in mind if she hears of anything be it an actual job or a lead. And I’d be friendly, smiling, and trying to make a good impression on the paper boy’s mom. How do I know her husband isn’t a contractor, or she herself isn’t a contractor? Bet you hadn’t thought of that possibility!