If you’re not networking, you’re not working.
You have heard no doubt that fairly common phrase which goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” It sums up nicely the idea that getting to know people may result in one of those you come to know being able to help you with your hope for employment.
Those who network well and make connections with others will tell you how much that networking proves useful, while those who don’t network will lament that it shouldn’t be about who you know at all, but what you know. Either way, both the two groups of people are acknowledging the power of networking.
I really think that if you aren’t networking, it’s likely because you either don’t know how to go about it, or you don’t want to put in the effort. Like most things in life, if you want something bad enough you have to work for it, and building up contacts and networking takes work. It is after all called, ‘NetWORKING’.
So what is networking. It’s actually easier to tell you what it isn’t. Networking is not having 2,000 friends on Facebook and sharing a photo of you and your cousin at the local restaurant having a pizza. It’s not about going to some conference or seminar and sitting at your table and talking to the 3 other people who sit with you about the topic and then leaving either. There are many people who go to conferences and seminars who never do any networking whatsoever.
Networking occurs when you engage others in conversation and that discussion shifts beyond the original reason for the dialogue. So if you go to a meeting about leadership and only talk about leadership with others, you aren’t really networking. Talking of the weather and the drive to get there is social courtesy but not really networking. Networking would be where you are chatting with someone on your mutual break or lunch hour and opened with, “So tell me about your work. How did you get started?”
With that kind of opening remark, the conversation shifts from speaking of leadership to that of showing an interest in the person’s work and how they got into the position or field. You are now networking. In a moment or two barring the conference getting underway again, you’ll be asked no doubt something similar about what it is you do.
Some people I know are painfully awkward when it comes to networking. They fear the moment when someone will ask them something and they’ll have to actually talk and engage in conversation. In short, their people skills are weak and instead of casually talking and enjoying it, they feel it taxing and a lot of mental work to initiate that conversation and keep it going.
Consider though that the first person who asks a question, such as the one above, “So what do you do for a living and how did you get started?”, just has to listen as soon as the question is out there. When the person is concluding their answer, a second or third question based on what you learn keeps THEM talking and you listening. “Wow that’s very interesting. So you didn’t plan on this career path at all when you started out?” And away they go!
Now, when it does shift to you, try to seize this chance to share your employment goal if you are unemployed or your hopes for a promotion or change. You’re not there to only exploit others, but if there is a relationship you can forge with this person and perhaps set up a follow-up meeting 1:1 with them, you might be on your way to getting some insights in the field you want to work in, and know you will ‘know’ someone.
Knowing someone in a company or a field in general in order to get a lead or a job offer isn’t a dirty thing; it’s the way of the world and quite a good thing actually. When you know someone they know you. As they know you, they may see a person who would be a good fit with their needs, maybe someone who will work hard or whose attitude would be a welcome addition to the organization.
Let me ask you this: Were you in a position to help someone you know right now get a job either in your own company or a company you know is hiring, would you let them know about the opportunity or help them in some other way? Perhaps tell them who to send their resume to, and maybe even put in a good word for them? I suspect you would. So if you would do that for others, why does it seem a bad thing then for others to lend a hand to people they know? The answer seems to only be when you are looking for work and don’t have the advantage of a network to leverage.
Connect with people therefore on LinkedIn or at the company you wish to work for. Then whether it’s through social media or conversations in real life with those you already know, start networking. Tell the people what you are looking for, ask for help, take and interest in them too. Networking is conversing so converse.
Networking is not magical or complicated. If you’re not networking, you’re not working.