According to the dictionary, one of networking’s definitions is “to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position.” In a nutshell, to network is to develop a broad list of contacts and bond with them through trust and relationship building activities. You might not always need a new job, or some kind of help, but when you do, having a strong professional network you can rely on is a must.
Estimates show that the majority of jobs get filled through word of mouth. So what are the best ways to tap into that pool of resources and develop strong relationships that can help you throughout your career?
Here is the list of the top ten tips to network yourself into a job:
1. Assess the purpose of your networking: The goal of networking should be to help other people rather than yourself. Helping other people will also benefit you.
2. Provide as much value as you possibly can: As stated above, networking should be about you helping others; this will showcase your abilities and allow others to draw their own conclusions. You never know to whom they may refer you after they’ve seen you in action.
3. There’s no need to know everyone, just the RIGHT people: Don’t get discouraged if you are not connected with everyone out there. There’s no need to, as long as you are connected to the right people. Remember that you can always tap into their networks if you ask politely.
4. Never expect anything: When you start networking with someone, don’t expect them to be indebted to you, or owe you a favour, just because you’ve made contact with them. Reach out with a sense of curiosity; learn about their interests and about what you can do to help them.
5. Don’t leave networking to chance. Work at it: Just because you are attending numerous events and mingling with new people does not mean that you have managed to expand your network. To do so you must be proactive. Ask people if it would be alright to contact them. If they agree, then do so. It may well start with something as simple as an email with an attachment to an article you thought might be of interest to them. From then on, the conversation will just roll on.
6. Never dismiss someone as irrelevant: Just because someone does not share the same interests as you do, or hang out in the same social circles as you, there is no reason to dismiss them as irrelevant. Someday you may need their expertise. You never know.
7. Expand your horizons and go beyond your industry: Don’t limit yourself to one industry only. As stated above, you never know who you may need. By expanding your network through a variety of fields, you are making yourself more valuable to the people in your existing network and industry.
8. Some of the best networking opportunities involve real work: Volunteering can open a million doors for you by allowing you tap into a vast array of talent. You can volunteer by helping out in your community, by participating in a committee, or even by helping out in a project inside your organization. The possibilities are endless.
9. Ask if people want to be connected: Remember that your network can be beneficial to others as well. Introduce people that you think might have something in common. Connecting like-minded people can help enhance your network, not to mention the appreciation of the people you have just connected.
10. Nurture your current network: Never forget your existing network. Try to contact them on a regular basis, send them a short email or give them a call. Make it a habit to contact one person per day.
Keep in mind that networking doesn’t happen overnight. Incorporate it into your daily activities and you’ll be able to reap the benefits when needed. Build mutually beneficial relationships through sharing relevant information or connecting compatible people. Focus on being of service to others as opposed to taking the more selfish approach.
If you practice these tips diligently, you won’t need to worry as much the next time you find yourself out of a job. You will have a ready-made network of people willing and able to assist you.
What is your experience when it comes to networking? What tools and tips have worked for you in the past?
About the Author: Dejan Ristic
In 2004, I founded Exceleris. In addition to managing all recruitment aspects of Exceleris, I have consulted (as CFO or in similar roles) with a number of technology companies (both publicly traded and venture funded start-ups)....