Do This, Not That for Networking Success
So much can be said about networking and much of it is important, as that is truly how many people discover openings and land jobs these days. Yet networking is often derided as being little more than “schmoozing” or working the cocktail party circuit — something you either like or despise.
Hiring experts, however, argue that networking is more akin to strategic planning — though in this case the planning involves people and getting to know them to advance your career pursuits. Good networkers (see April 26 post, “How to network with the well-networked”) recognize this, and take networking as seriously as they do other career development strategies and techniques. Every potential contact is a possible open door that could lead to a job offer down the road — and what good networkers have in common is that they are constantly finding ways to open more of those doors.
So, borrowing a page from the diet and fashion bibles (“eat this, not that” or “wear this, not that”) here are some “do this, not that” tips for networking success:
*Give, don’t just look to receive. Those who show up wanting a job lead, a contact in an organization, an online introduction or a recommendation will get it much more often if they are known for providing those leads, contacts and introductions to others. If you routinely take but don’t give, you may be given a few crumbs once in a while but you won’t establish an effective network in the long run. And if you think you don’t have time to help others with their careers, think again — others will write you off their list and won’t be there when you ask. Provide information, contacts and advice to others, and they are much more likely to be there for you. Everyone has knowledge about their specific field that’s useful — share the wealth.
*Regularly enhance your network; don’t try to tap it only at job-hunting time. Again, this takes more time and energy than the “hit-and-run” approach to networking, but if you’re serious about building an effective network, it’s necessary. It’s pretty clear to others that you’re getting in touch only when you need something, and you’ll quickly be labeled as a “user.” Conversely, if you’re in touch with a wide variety of people regularly and expand your network when you don’t necessarily need it, it will be there for you when you do.
*Listen, don’t only talk about yourself in networking situations. This is also good advice for informational interviews. Often, we’re so busy trying to impress the other person and think of the next clever thing that we’ll say, that we miss important points — and context — in what the other person is saying. And in networking, you could miss some important clues they’re giving you about job leads and contacts, and how else they may be helpful in your career pursuits. Practice active listening — it can pay big dividends.
*Figure that others are busy, too; try to avoid “taking it personally” when someone doesn’t get back to you right away. Email inboxes fill up quickly these days. Sometimes people don’t get back to you because they skipped over your email, or they meant to respond and then life moved on. So figure that if you don’t hear back from someone for a few days or a week that it’s okay to politely reach out to them again, especially if this is an ongoing email conversation. Seek to determine how they want to communicate (some people never check their Facebook private messages, for instance, while others prefer to be in touch that way) and then stay in touch — offering information whenever possible that will give them a “payback” for reading your email. If they brush you off completely after a few tries, then maybe it is you. But don’t presume that right off — and remember, when you’re job hunting, your timetable is very rarely the same as others’ timetables. Be patient and politely persistent when networking.