Networking (on and offline) has become the norm through the explosion of social media. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter – and all the ‘new kids on the block’ – means that there is greater communication between people than ever before.
However, when using your networking skills to advance your career or find a new job, a different set of rules apply. The plan is to arrange meaningful meetings with influential people. And that’s where the power lies. Learning how to harness the real power of networking really will change your career journey.
There are many people who feel uncomfortable about networking because they often see it as unsolicited approaches to strangers, or even friends. Some people simply prefer to keep their own counsel. However, they could be missing a host of opportunities that may otherwise never come their way.
Networking with people you know – and even with people you don’t - can be enormously helpful both with job searching or advancing your career. Generally speaking, it’s part of human nature to help others when you can and so people will be happy to help you. But your initial approach is vital.
If you’re considering a change of role, then saying directly to a senior manager that you’re “looking for a new challenge” will probably have them frown and point you towards HR. However, if you say something along the lines of: “I wonder if you could help me here, because I’d really appreciate your advice” it’s more likely to result in a meeting - and the opportunities that this meeting now produces can be endless:
- you could be seen as an (unexpectedly) perfect fit for a role they have in mind;
- you might be introduced to someone who thinks the same thing: (“I think you should meet our Operations Manager…”);
- they may come back to you weeks, or even months, later with a new proposal because after meeting you they were impressed enough to do so;
- they may even suggest an alternative but perfectly viable option that you would never have thought of yourself.
The point is, busy people will always want at least something positive to show for the time spent meeting you – be it offering you a role or, possibly, directing you to someone who can.
But of course it doesn’t have to be a senior manager. Your own friends or colleagues can be just as helpful, often in a surprising way. The whole point of ‘networking’ is to gain access to the vast network of helpful contacts that is available to you. You will know a lot of people, but each of those will have contacts, who have contacts…. It’s how the network can offer such a range of possibilities.
Your (possibly reserved) nature may lead you to network via email or phone – but that rarely works. Emails can be deleted and phone calls swiftly forgotten. There’s no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. It stands to reason that you’ll be ten times more memorable to someone you’ve actually met than having spoken to them briefly on the phone. People remember personalities and will be more inclined to help you if you’ve impressed them with your actual presence.
So yes, networking is an extremely powerful means of communication but, like most things, you must plan what you’re going to say, be able to give them a good reason to meet you in the first place, and know what you hope to gain from it. The point is, one meeting will lead to another..
“People employ people” is a well-known phrase and if people know that you’re ‘on the radar’, so to speak, and they even start talking about you to their own contacts, colleagues, friends… then further meetings will surely follow.
It’s in our nature to communicate with others and networking is vital to our success. Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t bear fruit immediately. Persevere, because in the end it most certainly will.
- Why network at all?
- Plan your networking campaign
- Be prepared to widen your net
- Contacts will lead to contacts
- Know how to persuade influential people to agree to meet you
- Never refuse a meeting with anyone