Starting today, I’ll be posting a 3-part series on networking.
I hear it time and again from colleagues: ‘I need a new job! I know I should start networking, but I really don’t know how.’ My simplest most direct response is, just get out there!
People put too much pressure on themselves, and anything related to one’s career too often incites panic. But networking truly is not a big deal. Let this be your year to get out there and prove to yourself that you can do this!
Three things to remember when it comes to networking:
1. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
When people start networking, they think that the state of their career will change at the blink of an eye; after that first cappuccino. And while that can happen, it’s not very likely to happen for most. Consider how many people marry the first person they date.
Networking is about building relationships with people, and sharing connections, so it takes time. Don’t expect to run out there, meet a handful of people and have a career change at the end of five days. Relax and learn something from these people. Learn about who they are, what they do, and how they got there.
2. The best time to network is when you’re not looking for work
I mention this because many colleagues also say ‘I’ll start networking when I really can’t stand my job, and need a new one.’ But really, if you’re not looking for work, you’re in the best position to make genuine connections with people.
Remember the dating analogy: you can smell the desperation at any bar around 1am, and you can definitely feel the discomfort in the air when the person looking across from you only wants to know if you can help them find a job. If you’re feeling desperate, or down on your luck at work, you’re not likely going to make the best impression. So if you’ve been thinking about networking, and you’re not actually ready to leave your job, know that from an emotional standpoint, you’re in the best position to make connections with people that can change your life in the future.
3. Set a simple goal, and get out there!
When I first began networking, my goal was to meet one new person every week. After two months, I truly had met eight contacts, and I genuinely still keep in touch with some of them. It’s true, none of these individuals handed me jobs at the end of the day, but they taught me more about life and professional development than I could have expected.
Networking teaches you how to be assertive, how to be a good listener, and how to appreciate the time people are willing to spend with you, sharing their knowledge. So decide on a goal, and go for it. If you set a goal to meet one new contact each month, at the end of the year, you’ll have 12 new contacts.