Say the word “networking” and you strike fear and loathing in the hearts of many people. Networking is viewed as begging, badgering and glad handing by the vast majority. Networking is, however, one of the single most important activities you can undertake to manage your career while you are working and find a job when you are not.
So, how can you look at it differently?
When viewed as an “event”, networking feels very transactional – I need something from you. However, when viewed as an ongoing process of simply building good connections and deepening your relationships for mutual benefit, it is so powerful.
How can I get started?
The best way to start networking is “warm”, with people you already know. If you are working, now is a great time to start. If you invest in building your relationships now, if you are ever in job search, you will be so far ahead of the curve.
One easy way is to take 5 minutes a day to recognize any changes going on in the lives of people in your network. I outline the steps here.
Another thing you can do is to make a list of your 10 most important career relationships and decide how you are going to stay connected. Do you want to schedule a quarterly lunch, drink, or cup of coffee? Do you want to talk to that person occasionally on their commute home? There are lots of quick and easy ways to be proactive about not losing touch.
What if I am in job search?
The first thing you might want to do is to prioritize your LinkedIn connections so that you have some structure to your outreach. I outline the steps here.
Once your LinkedIn network is in order, you might want to approach networking with these four outcomes in mind:
What should networking accomplish? Networking outcomes:
Networking is a way to get the message out about yourself and your search. Nobody can hire you if they do not know about you. Networking helps with exposure.
Networking helps you learn about the market and gain job search insight so you can have a more efficient and productive search
Networking helps you to get referrals to continue to grow and expand your network
Networking should be about mutual benefit. In addition to requesting support from your connections, you should give something back (contacts, thanks, shared articles, work-related advice).
What if I don’t know what to say?
Here are a few ideas for outreach by email or phone to get you started:
I noticed that you work in the medical device industry and have recent experience in job search. I am trying to find out about the market in Atlanta. I have 11 years in the pharmaceutical industry and would love to talk with you for a few minutes to see if you have any advice.
I have heard really great things about Arris from my former colleague, Kevin. Since you have been with the company for 5 years, I wanted to touch base and see if you might be willing to share your perspective. Would you have 5 minutes in the next couple of weeks for a quick phone call? If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know. Thanks again, Russ.
Dear Jeff, My name is Beth and I am also an alumnus of Georgia Tech. Could you spare a couple of minutes over the phone to answer a few questions about your experience at Jabian? I am trying to learn more about accounting roles at consulting firms in Georgia, so your insight would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much! Best Regards, Beth
Dear Pam, my name is Bob and I am also an alumnus of the University of Georgia. I was wondering if you might have five minutes to share your insight on the culture and current climate at Home Depot. I have applied for a position there and I am doing my due diligence to learn more. Your perspective as an insider would be really beneficial. Thank you! Sincerely, Bob
Putting it all together:
There is no more important and valuable activity for career management than networking. Whether you are currently working or in a job search, mastering this important skill will pay great dividends in your career. The sooner you get started, the better the outcome. After a little investment, most people find that they truly enjoy the process.
What are your favorite networking tips?
I would love it if you could share what has worked for you in the comments section below.