We all hear that networking is the key to finding a (good) job. Yet it often doesn’t work. Upon closer look, however, the problem is not that networking itself doesn’t work; it’s that it’s done ineptly.
Networking does NOT mean: Imposing on others. Acting like a beggar. Accepting a friend’s offer to “circulate” your resume. Going to meetings you’d normally shun just to give out your resume and collect business cards. Asking family and friends if they know of openings. Requesting a meeting to pick someone’s brain. Calling a former colleague you haven’t talked with in the last decade to ask if she knows of any openings in your field… These kinds of activities have given networking a bad name. No wonder you put it off! Bad networking is worse than none at all.
Similarly, the people you contact–no matter how willing in general they may be to help–don’t like feeling duped, being asked to have their brains picked, or meeting with no clear purpose or agenda.
Done right, though, networking gets you to people and opportunities you won’t see advertised. You find out who’s got the problems you can help solve–whether or not there are posted “openings.” You gain access to hiring decision-makers, bypassing the HR fortress. All this while preserving your dignity and without imposing on others. Whether your goal is a job change, career transition, or increasing your current career effectiveness, networking done well increase the odds of achieving your goal.
6 Common Networking Mistakes
1. Thinking “I don’t have any contacts” or that the only ones that count are those who can hire you in your target field or industry. Don’t take for granted the people you DO know: Friends and family, hair stylist, mechanic, next-door neighbor, veterinarian, etc. Each person you know is a potential bridge to others. The goal is to move from people you know to people you don’t know.
2. Looking only for “openings.” Most people won’t know of actual job openings, but then can alert you to industry needs, opportunities, key people, and employers. Understanding the trends, needs, and key players in your target area strengthens your positioning and your ability to contribute.
3. Poor approach, being vague about your request, whether for information, leads, etc. Instead of a quick phone call to ask about openings, make initial contact by email or letter. Introduce yourself, describe your purpose clearly, and then follow up by phone. Don’t say, “I’d like to pick your brain” or “I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have about areas I could look into.” These broad requests burden your contact. Instead, describe the kind of information you are seeking and how you plan to use it. Your contact will then know if and how s/he can help. It’s tempting to skip this step. Don’t!
4. Blowing the meeting itself. Again, your purpose should be clear and your questions prepared. Start with a brief snapshot about yourself (not your sob story, but examples of success). Then ask your questions.
5. No, or very little, follow up. ALWAYS send a thank you note, even if the information you receive is negative or discouraging. If it saves you a misguided decision, it’s worth it. Keep good records. Get permission to stay in touch. When you make a move, let anyone who helped you know the outcome, and be sure to thank them.
6. Reaching out to others only when looking for a job. Stay in touch, be friendly, ask your contacts how they’re doing, and offer to reciprocate. Cultivate your own network. As Harvey Mackay says, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” You stay current, improve your value to your employer, learn from others, and increase your career “equity.”
Effective networkers convey a clear purpose. They prepare. They approach others respectfully. They recognize that we’re all linked, and they offer to help others. They follow up, and they thank each person who’s been helpful along the way.
The best networkers know that exchanging information and resources is the key to career–and life–satisfaction and success. Whether you’re happy in your job, looking for your next one, or considering a shift in direction, networking done right is essential. Here’s to your growing network!
Consider a CAP (Career Action Planning) Session if you:
> Feel stuck or stalled in your career
> Are worried about a layoff
> Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
> Have been looking for work but not getting results.
In this 90-120-minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it. For more information call me at 314-752-1373 or use the contact form on my website.