By Erica Tew, CPRW
What is networking?
It is introducing yourself to people, forming relationships, and maintaining these relationships through effective communication.
Communication is about making decisions. You decide who you want to approach and how you want to do so. Factors that can influence these decisions depend on what you know about the other party, their preferred method of communication, and the level of your relationship with that person.
When job seekers ignore these factors and abruptly ask strangers for jobs, or to find jobs for them, they are usually frustrated with the lack of success. This is because the strategy is only focused for the benefit of one person, the job seeker.
Why is networking so difficult?
I think it is because we place extra pressure on ourselves when job seeking. Networking becomes another burdensome task, like writing your resume or blocking away three hours of your day to fill out an online job application. Yet we all know networking does not have to be one of those things. If the terminology is causing you stress, drop it and focus on meeting other real people.
To put networking in perspective, think of your circle: your friends, family, and colleagues. Who, within these circles, actively networks? Your 8 year old niece who leverages social prowess and gets invited to Susan’s sleepover party. Your grandmother who raises funds for her church by hosting events and bake sales, managing to get donations from even the tightest of purses. Fred, the guy you hike with on Saturdays, who just landed a new client to get promoted. Your friend from high school who dropped out of college and now runs a successful online business. Networking is actively done by many parties who may never directly label their actions as “networking.”
How do you network?
Reach out to people you already know- family, friends, colleagues, etc. Provide some basics. When people say, “I need a job, any job,” the sentiment is understandable, but it makes the search so broad and open ended it feels insurmountable. Focusing on a specific job will not only help your own search, but it will help narrow down the focus for your friends who may scout around for you.
Explain what types of skills you have and try not to overuse the word “job.” Although you are looking for work, be open to advice and introductions. This is the development of your career for the long term, not only as a means for your next position. Effective networking continues as you regain employment.
Typically, people are more receptive when you ask for their opinion (as long as you ask politely and make sure they have the time to do so). To illustrate this, compare the two statements below:
- “Hi, I’m looking for a job. Can you alert me when there are openings at your company?”
- “Hi Mark, Hope you are doing well. I was wondering if I could get a few minutes of your time. I’m currently looking for a position in customer service, and was wondering if you had any advice about starting in the field. …”
Which message would you prefer? Although the first would be easy for a friend, it may be a lot of extra work for a stranger. The second is much more personalized and starts with a conversation, making this option more inviting. When you reach out to contacts, especially those you may not know very well yet, try to personalize the message and not ask too much too soon.
As you network, focus on creating lasting relationships. Make your contact attempts without holding high expectations. Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t respond. Be open to any advice or feedback from your network. Learning one new thing can have the potential to dramatically improve your job search.
Additionally, actively listening is key to a successful relationship and develops more personalized bonds between people. When meeting new people, listen more than you share. This information will gauge your perceptions about how the contact prefers to communicate and if there is a possibility of a mutually-beneficial relationship.
The strategies in networking assist in a job search because the more people that know you well and trust you, the faster you will get responses back regarding feedback, advice, referrals, or job openings. Networking is not about what others can do for you, but about the quality of the relationships you develop.