Whether you’re looking for employment or successfully employed, you’ve undoubtedly heard and know the value of networking. That being said, it is surprising that many people don’t do it well themselves; often not truly networking with others until necessity demands it. Like many things, necessity might at that point force you to do it, but without the practice, you’re unlikely to be at your best.
So what exactly is networking and how do you both get started and do it well? Networking is having conversations with people where information is exchanged and relationships established and nurtured. It is often associated with advancing one’s own career but this latter part need not be part of some formal definition. Many people network for the purpose of solely learning more about the best practices in their field, or mentoring others without thinking to spin these into self promotions and advancement.
Today I’ve got a meeting set up for noon with one of my LinkedIn connections. This is a face-to-face meeting which could be a one-time only event. It has come about because she initiated contact, indicated she was relatively new to the area and has not had the success she’d hoped for in finding employment so far. Her request for either a meeting or a suggestion of someone else to contact in her field that might assist her is how she started. She’s taken initiative, reached out, and only time will tell if she’s satisfied or not with the outcome. It is however how networking begins.
Networking however has its payoffs. It can be so much more than a conversation. Last night I met with another person who reached out also via LinkedIn initially. This was our second face-to-face meeting. This time we talked about progress she was making, where she was in terms of her career thought process, looked at ways to strengthen her resume when applying and she shared a little of what transpired with others she was meeting with. During this second conversation, I also got some valuable feedback on some ideas I’m considering for the future and she took a real interest in my journey too. It was the best of networking; each person getting and giving for the benefit of both of us.
What is transpiring in the meeting above is a mutual investment in this relationship, rather than a one-way, “it’s all about me because I’m the one without a job” mentality. When both people feel they are benefitting from a conversation, each is invested to a higher degree.
Now the payoff of networking. This time I share with you the success story of a woman with whom I had the distinct pleasure of assisting in her search for meaningful employment. She initiated a dialogue back in January of this year with a gentleman she’s known for almost 15 years, but this time she reached out specifically with employment in mind. That initial networking conversation led to multiple conversations, even an invitation to attend a networking event together as his guest. Just yesterday she got in contact with me to say he himself has hired her on to work with him in his own business.
The experiences of these three women all demonstrate the value of taking the initiative to reach out and network. While much has changed in how we go about finding employment over the years, who you know is still a major key factor in being successful. How do you get to know people if you fail to reach out to anyone you don’t currently know?
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn are great for developing connections, but it still amazes me how many people decline invitations to connect with people they don’t know. Sure there are people who are just clicking away connecting with people for the sole purpose of increasing their numbers. That’s not networking however; that’s a popularity exercise. Connecting with famous people is also not truly networking. You’re unlikely to have an actual conversation with them, but you’ll get their thoughts in a one-way broadcast and you’ll get their name among your contacts if that holds meaning for you.
Here’s some ideas for you to consider acting upon; and let me make it clear that ‘acting upon’ should be your goal. For starters, initiate connection requests to the following people: those who work where you might like to also work or those who work in the same line of work you’re pursuing. You may come across people with profiles that peak your interest and spark some genuine curiosity or affinity with whom you’d like to know better. What might they share with you that would help you find passion yourself in what you do? What might they tell you that would help you get where they are or give you insights into the company or field you’re wanting to join?
Once connected with these people, do more than just count them as a connection. Reach out with an email or message and thank them for agreeing to be a connection. Tell them what attracted them to you and ask if there is the possibility of either meeting face-to-face, having a phone conversation or an online chat.
Be prepared for those that will say yes and those who will decline. Have some questions ready and be prepared to give as well as get. Make it worthwhile for both you and them.
Work your network.