Networking is a contact sport!
With so many online social networking sites available at our finger tips, it’s not hard to fall into the trap of networking only through your keyboard.
It’s also often difficult to expand one’s network – or even foster the current one – when life is busy and it doesn’t seem such a priority……until, of course, you find yourself unemployed, or seeking that next career move, or just generally needing advice or information.
During this period of economic downturn and job loss, we see many colleagues suffer as a result of not having a network.
The official definition of ‘networking’ is to socialise for professional or personal gain. For some, this can have negative connotations.
Instead, think of networking as win/win relationships – it’s as much about what you can do for another as they might be able to do for you.
Face to face networking is strongly encouraged. Get out from behind the computer and actually speak to people. Attend conferences, dinners, events, meetings, whatever you can to meet new people and expand your knowledge of what and who is around.
Walking into a room full of strangers can in itself be incredibly daunting, and one of the key reasons why people avoid doing it. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Write your elevator speech (a 30 second snapshot of who you are, what you do and for whom).
- Use your connections for introductions and for follow-up.
- Show genuine interest in others and listen.
- Ask for advice, not a job (or anything else you might be seeking at that time).
- Build relationships by sharing information.
- Maintain a two-way street, and keep the door open.
- Be respectful at all times.
- Say thank you when your network contact does something for you.
- Participate in as many networking groups as you can manage, preferably with some cross- over of attendees in order to build relationships.
- And remember that networking is a lifetime process. You need to keep it up.
This last tip is most critical. Too many people make the mistake of only networking when they are looking for a job, or need a sale. We’ve all likely experienced a number of inappropriate approaches via networking sites to provide recommendations for people we’ve never met, let alone worked with. Even worse is being asked to facilitate introductions to people in your own network from others you have never met, and then never hear from again. This networking behaviour does not meet the ‘win/win’ criteria.
Networking and maintaining your network are ongoing processes – not just for when you are an active job seeker. Some say your network = your net worth.
By always networking, you will likely discover opportunities you would not otherwise find, such as new business, jobs, education and training, idea generation, general career advice and tips.
A few other tips:
- Don’t email a request on behalf of someone and cc your network contact in. This makes it very difficult for your contact to politely decline or advise that they cannot assist. Instead, ask your network contact first if they have the time/will be able to assist or are happy to meet the other person you are seeking to connect with them.
- Don’t ask your colleague to then contact the other person. If you are seeking assistance, you should make the contact. Don’t leave it to your network colleague to do!
- When someone facilitates an introduction for you to someone in their network, ensure you take the time to thank both for whatever assistance and time they provide. This gets over looked so often and is just rude.
- Don’t ask someone to recommend you or your work if they have never met you or engaged your services. This is inappropriate on all levels.
- Similarly, do not email someone looking to utilise their network for your own gain when they’ve never met you or used your services themselves.
And finally, get out from behind the desk and start networking!