Networking is one of the most important and often least-liked aspects of the job search. It’s understandable if the idea of networking makes you uncomfortable. But, if you are looking for a new job or to change careers, the sooner you can find a style of networking that works for you, the better. Here are a few things to consider:
Network before you need something:
If you don’t want your networking to be transactional, then don’t let it be transactional. One way to build more meaningful connections while networking is to start before you need something. You don’t have to wait until you change jobs or decide to learn a new skill. Pat Hedley, author of “Meet 100 People” said that “Networking is like a muscle, you have to flex it every day.” If every day feels like a lot, start with a smaller goal, like meeting a new person once a month or each quarter.
Sometimes being interested can help you be interesting:
When you reach out to new people, show a genuine interest in the people you are reaching out to. Career Coach and co-founder of Idealist.org, Russ Finkelstein, said that “Most people approach networking from a place of want or need. It’s actually best done from a place of curiosity.” This means seeing each person you meet as more than a pathway to your next job.
The next time you are scanning the career fair invite list or scrolling through Linkedin, ask yourself, what do I know about this person? Are there things we have in common? What has this person done professionally that I appreciate or admire? Are there small ways that I could show my support of this person’s ideas, interests, or work?
The best networking relationships are those where everyone feels like they are growing as a result of the interaction. You may not always feel confident in what you have to offer when reaching out to a new person but paying attention to what is important to them can help you get a better idea of how to build an intentional and reciprocal relationship.
Get someone else to introduce you:
Sometimes initiating a new conversation can feel intimidating. If this feels like a major barrier for you, ask someone else to make your introduction.
You are not completely off the hook, you will still need to give this person an elevator pitch about who you are. Here is what to include: 1. Who are you?; 2. What you do currently; 3. One important skill or interesting fact that connects you to this person, or to the thing you are connecting about; 4. What do you want from this introduction?
Use your network to expand your network.
Go where networking is the expectation:
Linkedin is a space where networking is the default. This means if someone is on the site they are opting in to build connections and networking. This doesn’t guarantee that they will accept every connection request. If someone does not accept your request to connect, don’t be deterred. Linkedin has over 800 million users in more than 200 countries.
If Linkedin feels intimidating try some smaller spaces or places where you are already engaged. Here are some other spaces for networking:
Career Fairs (virtual or live): At the fair, the recruiters come to you. Find career fairs on sites like PowertoFly, Tribaja or Eventbrite. Don’t forget to follow-up with your contacts after each event.
Meetups & Eventbrite: Attend a workshop, meet-up or panel where you learn new skills related to your desired job. Don’t focus on meeting new people, instead, be engaged, ask questions, and show interest. After the event, send a connection request on Linkedin to the event speakers or organizers.
Show and Share:
In the western hemisphere of the world, recruiting is often still based on a sales culture.
Many recruiters are faced with filling multiple roles and reviewing hundreds of applications per role. According to Glassdoor, the average corporate role attracts 250 applicants. The right candidate taking the initiative to introduce themselves and pinpoint exactly why they are the right fit, in a clear and succinct way, can be a gift to a recruiter, and save them a lot of time.
But, sometimes the idea of talking about yourself or selling your skills can feel uncomfortable. Self-promotion could feel strange to a person for many reasons. In some cultures, this type of behavior is considered rude or taboo. While it is still important to familiarize yourself with the skillset if it is expected in the region of the world where you are job seeking, you can experiment with methods while you buildup your self-promotion skills. The goal is for people to understand who you are and what you can bring to their company.
Instead of “tell and sell, telling people about yourself and selling your skills, try “show and share”. Show people your skillset and share examples of how you have or can successfully utilize that skill set in different scenarios.
- Show and share your excitement about a new project by writing a blog about it and sharing it as a post on Linkedin or in a Slack channel.
- Show and share your experience by lending them to an open-source project, or making a youtube video where you help fill in the gaps on a complicated concept.
- Show and share your skills by volunteering your time to a project or organization
Finding the right job opportunity warrants a level of self-promotion, but you can also help the job opportunity find you by being visible.
You’ve got the talent and the skill, but if you are not networking, how is anyone going to know? Ultimately networking is community building. It is something that you have done many times before with friends, family both virtually and in person. You don’t have to stick to the traditional methods of networking. Be creative and explore alternative methods as long as they are helping you reach your goal.