Many job seekers have told me how much they hate networking for their job search.
They don’t like meeting strangers, particularly when they (and the strangers) have “an agenda.”
They would rather spend (waste?) time endlessly clicking on the “Apply” button on job boards than venture out into the scary world of “NETWORKING”!
Unfortunately, this mindset makes their job search longer and, very possibly, less successful.
My favorite networking story:
I witnessed three people connect with new jobs based on one conversation.
And the conversation happened at the viewing/wake before the funeral of a former colleague -- NOT your typical networking venue!
Just a few people, waiting in line to pay their respects to a deceased former co-worker, and catching up with what they were doing. Bingo! Three job offers! In less than a week!
No. It’s not “hard work.” Or, it should NOT be hard work for you
If it is hard work for you, change your approach and/or your mindset.
Networking should be seeing people you like, often connecting with people from your past as well as your current life. Catch up on the latest news -- new friends, new family members, new interests, new jobs, new opportunities…
Perhaps “socializing” is a more appropriate term for it than “networking.”
Meet friends for coffee, lunch, a drink, movies, jogging, running, dancing, singing, joining, working, or just talking.
Socialize with the mindset of catching up with old friends. What’s happening: What are they doing? How are they doing? What’s new with them? Anything you can help them with -- and vice versa?
Network with people you have something in common with:
No, it does NOT mean only strangers! Or, it doesn't need to mean that if you don't like attending large events by yourself..
This assumption is true only if you choose to attend the kind of events that are in large rooms full of strangers.
If you choose to attend one of those events (optional!), tthe best strategy for feeling more comfortable at one of those events is to attend with (or meet with) a friend at the event, so you aren't alone.
If you prefer -- and most of us do -- networking can be done one-on-one or in smaller groups, often with people you already know or with a mix of strangers and people you know.
As someone who is basically shy, I prefer the smaller groups (10 or fewer people) with a mix of “new” and “old” people as both more comfortable and more interesting since I can catch up with friends and colleagues as well as meeting new people, too.
The networking that can be accomplished in those situations is amazing!
I wish I had a nickel for every job seeker who said this to me, and it is SO wrong!
If you view networking as “using” people, you are networking the wrong way. Networking shouldn’t be focused on WIIFM (“What’s in it for me!).
To be genuine and effective, networking needs to be focused on being helpful to others, rather than using them. Make that introduction (if appropriate).
Share information, and good advice. Ask for opinions. And, ask for help, too.
Yes, hopefully, people will help you but not because you have tricked them or coerced them to do it. That would be “using” them.
Done correctly, networking is mutual support, and the people who help you are helping you voluntarily, perhaps in response to something you have helped them accomplish. Perhaps they have offered you their support without you even asking for it. Or, maybe you reached out and asked for help.
But, it isn’t – and it shouldn’t feel like – “using” others.
Your strongest network is those people you already know, even if you haven't seen them in a few (or in many) years. Perhaps you worked with them in the past or belonged to an organization at the same time.
Or, perhaps you grew up with them or met them at an event at your child’s school. Maybe you belong/belonged to an organization together.
Sit down, and make a list of the people you have liked in the past but lost touch with. Maybe dig out some old email newsletters or look at some old calendars. Think of the people you liked, and reach out via social media -- Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Or, Google their names.
Then, send a short email message or make a phone call. "Hi! It's been a while since we last spoke. How are you doing? What's new in your life? Have time to chat?"
For some great tips on reaching out 4 LinkedIn Icebreakers (with Sample Messages).
People who are over 40 or 50 have a big advantage in the job market. That’s why unemployment is higher for new grads than for Boomers. “Mature” people have an easier time job hunting now because of the size of their networks, particularly their former co-workers and bosses – when they pay attention to them. Yes, you should continue to expand your network, but it shouldn’t be unpleasant to do.
But, younger networkers shouldn't be discouraged. You are typically more active with your family and your hobbies outside of your home. So, you have an easy way to expand your network, too. Don't ignore those opportunities. The not-so-great outfielder in your softball league or the introvert in your book club may become CEO of the next Amazon.com in 5 or 10 years.
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.