One of the most frequently occurring subjects which comes up when talking with my clients looking to find the job they will love is ‘Networking and how to do it’ .
Given that it is probably one of the most important activities you can undertake when job hunting and coupled with the fact that most people are doing it most of their lives, but don’t realise it, why does it cause so much ‘angst’ with so many people?
To answer this I am going to take you through some areas that hopefully will explain why this is and how to do it effectively.
Firstly, the perception of Networking by many people is walking into a room full of strangers and having to introduce yourself cold and then decide what to talk about. Its easy to understand why this is daunting and occasionally you may well have to do this, but hopefully, by learning a few simple techniques about Networking generally, it wont be the daunting experience you think it is.
What is Networking and when do we do it?
You already do it most days, whether at school, university, employment or just in your social life when meeting new friends. Some people are fortunate and do it naturally without thinking and some people find it more difficult to do, or don’t know where to start.
When you strip it right down, “It is the human skill of being open and interested in other people” and the good thing, is like all skills, it can be learnt and improved on.
So Networking is taking the time to meet people and be interested in what they do, looking at life from their point of view, so that they feel you understand them, which makes them feel good.
Why is Networking so important and why does it show such great results?
If you understand that the hidden job market can account for up to 80% of employment opportunities and that most employers would rather take recommendations from respected friends and colleagues than go through the sometimes long and expensive route of advertising for the ideal candidate. You start to realise how effective networking can work in your favour when searching for that next job opportunity.
Think about all the times you may need some work doing on your home or on your car or wish to buy something that bit unusual, unless you already have a favourite person that you allready know can do the work you need, you most likely will ask friends, family and colleagues if they know or can recommend anyone and if they do with some degree of enthusiasm, then you will probably check them out.
The same applies in the job search market.
You have heard of the terms “karma” or “reap what you sow” well Networking follows the same principles - when you are interested in and helpful to people, then good experiences tend to came back to you. This may not be straight away, but eventually positive things do tend to happen.
On a personal basis I can say that over the last 20 years every job opportunity when employed and every piece of new business won when running my own company came through Networking. One piece of work in particular, came from a recommendation from a colleague who had worked for me 18 months previously and was asked by a client of his if he knew anyone who could help them with developing a business plan for growth. He thought of me and the work we did together previously and gave them my name.
Remember ‘Networking is a skill for life’
Top tips for Networking
It would be good to watch my simple animation at this point on the10 top tips when networking as it puts into context the key things that make it work well:
What about Networking a room?
If you are there on your own and feel conscious of not knowing anyone and how to start the conversation, then there are a few simple rules that will help you:-
- Initially avoid the ‘closed’ discussion by groups of two, three or four people. This is when they are facing one another and appear to be in deep conversation. These are harder to break into.
- Try and look for the groups of three, preferably with at least one women in the group, and who seem to be chatting in a more open relaxed stance, ie, not closed off. (why a women? well women are known to be more polite and inclusive than men in general)
- Go up to them and ask if its OK to join them and then shut up, hopefully they will say fine of course and start to introduce themselves, if they don’t immediately introduce themselves, then by all means say your name and ask theirs.
- Your role is to be interested and fascinated in THEM, not in you, so ask questions and you must really listen to their answers to understand them. People love to talk about themselves!
- Remember how you feel when you are really understood, it is not just enough to care and understand, its how you make them feel cared for and understood that really matters.
- When you do ask questions make sure they are genuinely asked such as - “What is it you do and what makes you get up in the morning?” or “why did you come today, what was the inspiration?” or “what were you hoping to get from today's event” then really listen to what they say so you can carry on the train of their thoughts
- Finally always remember you are Networking not only with them, but also their own Network, so you need to know about them, be liked and trusted by them and then they will more likely buy into you.
I am not saying avoid all people on their own, its just more difficult to break away if they become too clinging. Also with groups of two, if the body language is not too closed (face to face) then the same principle of approach applies as to the group of three.
Oh and remember, try and avoid the need to pull out your mobile phone and pretend to be extremely busy just because you are feeling uncomfortable or nervous in meeting others. Get involved, and ask yourself the question - "what is the worst that can happen?"
Your personal Networking Strategy
Unless you are well organised in your Networking activity already, it will pay dividends to think of it as a ‘strategy to achieve success’. Its easier to to begin to contact new and existing people if you have a clear idea of the end game and the help you need. Do you know what you want, whether its information about companies, markets, people or introductions? Are you prepared with a rationale why this is and more importantly have you thought about how you can help them first?
Do you use the business Network - LinkedIn in your strategy? Do you get involved in group discussions on line?
Do you target events to attend etc?
Include all of these in your strategy and prioritise your time as to how you hope to reap the benefits from the various activities and people you wish to contact.
Most people who meet up at events throw away over 70% of the business cards they collect thinking the person and their job role isn’t of interest,. However, remember its not just them you are interested in, but their Network too, so make a point of staying in touch
If you need more detailed help with Networking whether its to find new employment, advance your career or simply extending your current networking skills please do get in touch via my web site.