Networking has been consistently demonstrated as the most effective job search strategy, so why are so many people reluctant to network?
Getting Comfortable with Networking
Networking is about people helping people about actively creating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with others, particularly those in your fields of interest. As a general rule, the larger your network, the more effective your job search is likely to be. By expanding your network you increase your chances of hearing about job openings like the technical writing position described above before the manager decides to use a more formal, public method of recruitment.
Commonly cited barriers to effective networking
Sheer Terror! I am much too shy/introverted to do this!
- If you are not a naturally extroverted person, the concept of networking can seem massively intimidating. It helps to remember that networking is not primarily about you, it is about the other person. Skills like listening attentively, asking good questions and showing an interest in others are key. And if the idea of making cold calls day after day or attending self-proclaimed “networking events” ranks among your worst nightmares, there is no rule that says you have to network this way. Focus on creating and fostering relationships in ways that work for you, be that community involvement, referrals from friends, or talking with professors.
I don’t like schmoozing/using people – networking seems rude/aggressive to me.
- Done poorly and with the wrong attitude, networking can indeed come across as aggressive and inconsiderate. Good networking, however, is about seeking out mutually beneficial relationships it’s a two-way street. Never assume that you can “use” someone and then just move on: reputations spread quickly within organizations and fields and you want to build a reputation as a “giver” not a “taker.” Show respect for your contacts’ time by doing your homework prior to any meeting. Do not try and push someone to do more for you than they are willing and make sure to show your appreciation by following up with a simple thank you note or email.
I don’t like asking for help or imposing on people – won’t that seem desperate?!
- People influence and help us out in our lives and careers in a myriad of different ways. When you are just starting out in your career there is no way that you could have all of the answers and information that you need to make fully informed choices. Rest assured that anyone you talk to will have received help from someone somewhere along their career path and they will likely be quite pleased to give back a little. By asking for help you are giving others the opportunity to give and share their knowledge, wisdom and passion for their field. It can be a genuine pleasure to talk about your career path and interests with an eager listener.
- Attitude is everything here. Neediness, selfish-ness and desperation repel others; kindness, generosity and genuine interest in people attract.
- Instead of focusing on what you need from an interaction, relax and start really listening to the other person. Find out what makes them tick, where their passions lie. Pay attention to what their needs are and figure out how you might be able to help them. Give first, and give often, the rest will tend to take care of itself.
- As a job seeker it is natural to feel somewhat vulnerable and powerless at times – consciously remind yourself that you have a lot to offer others, be it your time, enthusiasm, knowledge, contacts, advice, skills or a listening ear.
It’s All About Building Relationships!
Remember that good networking is really about being friendly and interested in others, being an active and attentive listener and treating people with courtesy, respect and generosity. Smile, make eye contact, approach each interaction with an open mind and a positive attitude and you never know what may happen. Do not be shy to ask for help and be confident that you have a lot to give and offer in return. Actively seek out new contacts, follow up with those you meet, put in the effort to maintain and build upon these initial contacts and you will be well on your way to success.
As Zig Ziglar, motivational speaker and author, noted: “You can get everything you want in life, by helping enough other people to get what they want.”