What Is Networking?
Networking is the process of meeting people, establishing respect, exchanging information and ideas, and building a relationship for future mutually beneficial exchanges. Networking is an active, ongoing process which allows for increasingly expanding sources of information and support. “Networking” and “schmoozing” are not synonyms!
Networking is also one of the most effective and reliable methods used by successful job seekers. Unfortunately, most people think networking means attending professional and social events and exchanging business cards. True networking is a fine art and, as such, requires thought, planning, and effort. You can even do some networking online.
Advantages of Networking
Networking can be used to find and utilize new sources of information, such as current job openings, business expansions, or implementing new positions. The reality of today's job market is that most positions are never advertised. Yet they continue to be filled. How? By referral. Referral by someone internal, external, or the "who- do-you-know" method of search – an employer finding you or you finding the hiring manager. In other words, networking!
Networking, done correctly, will build a personal group of very knowledgeable people in a wide variety of professions, so that one knows where to turn if needing help in a given area.
How to Network
Know what you are looking for. Identify a particular position or field of interest and the skills you have for entering this area. If you are only “seeking a job,” no one will be able to assist you because the scope is too broad. You must be more specific.
Make a list of all people and groups who can assist you. Don't worry about whether they are personally responsible for hiring. It's not who they are, but who they know. This list may include:
- Friends of relatives/Relatives of friends
- Career services staff
- College connections: professors, advisors, administrators, alumni, classmates, etc.
- Present and past employers
- Professional associations
- Social contacts
- Facebook friends
- LinkedIn connections
- Church contacts
- Club or sports contacts
- Casual acquaintances
Principles of Masterful Networking
- Think of yourself as a product, market yourself accordingly, and be capable of selling yourself effectively.
- Maintain a positive attitude and strong self-confidence. Your attitude is your most important asset.
- Have the courage to establish new connections. Overcome the natural human fear of rejection.
- Practice active listening.
- Be useful to people. Help them with their needs if you can.
- Learn to think pro-actively (always think ahead) for information you may need.
- Follow up on commitments to others.
- Always acknowledge help from others with some form of "Thank You."
50 Ways to Improve Your Networking Skills
By Brad Hirni, Echo Marketing Consultants
- Set specific and realistic networking objectives.
- Create a positive first impression with new contacts.
- Find common ground for discussion in order to develop mutual respect and trust.
- Carry plenty of business cards. (Yes, job seekers can have business cards)
- Write identifying information notes and date on the back of business cards you receive.
- Tell people what you do, not just who you are.
- Ask people what they do and how you can help them.
- Be willing to connect people with mutual areas of interest (act as a catalyst).
- Follow-up on leads and information gained as well as commitments you make to others.
- Do not do "hard selling" or monopolize people's time when networking.
- Take advantage of chance encounters to network (chance encounters are people you come into contact with unexpectedly).
- Assume that everyone you meet possesses valuable networking information.
- Ask yourself: "Do I know the right people?--Do the right people know ME?"
- Practice making networking come natural (do not force yourself on people).
- Think of yourself as being useful to others (and be able to show it).
- Probe with carefully selected open-ended questions, then LISTEN.
- Show your sense of humor.
- Smile frequently (be at ease, composed and engaged).
- Say "Thank You" and write thank you letters or notes.
- Be willing to give information freely (as long as it is not proprietary).
- Never repeat or perpetuate rumors (a gossiper does not project the image of trust and respect).
- Be positive, enthusiastic, confident and self-assured.
- Develop true enjoyment in meeting new people.
- Ask for a personal introduction to a friend of a new networking contact.
- Avoid offensive jokes and emotion-laden topics when networking.
- Look for opportunity in every conversation.
- Make handshakes firm and brief.
- Minimize interruptions when someone else is talking.
- Become an artist at "small talk" (the purpose of "small talk" is to make people feel comfortable).
- Develop an information "get list" before networking.
- Think "How can I create value out of each conversation?
- Maintain positive body language (good eye contact, pleasant tone of voice, smile, nod, appropriate gestures, easy posture).
- Prepare a "30-second commercial" to explain your occupation.
- Mirror image but do not mimic your conversation partner.
- Visualize the skills you will use in your networking experience.
- Visualize anticipated outcomes in every networking experience.
- Remember that some people are not receptive to networking.
- Develop "reciprocal relationships" with people which will perpetuate the growth of your personal network.
- Remember that each person you meet knows, on average, 250 people you don't know and vice versa.
- Avoid mention of any racial, sexist or ethnic bias when networking.
- Look for opportunities to make yourself viable in a variety of social settings.
- Get involved in organizations and groups that will enhance your personal growth and development.
At Group Functions:
- Arrive early to circulate and network.
- Mingle or sit with people you don't already know.
- Act like a host, not a guest, and initiate self-introductions.
- Wear your nametag on the right shoulder (during a handshake the eye easily follows the right hand up the shoulder).
- Position yourself in high traffic areas (such as near the food table, the bar, or the door).
- Willingly introduce peers and associates to new contacts.
- Plan ahead to identify and prioritize who you need to meet and network with (you only have so much time, so use it wisely).
- Ask yourself when leaving a group function, "How can I turn today's contacts into tomorrow's opportunities?"