Does the thought of networking make you go cold?
Does it conjure up bad memories, or do you not know what to say to start the conversation? Have you had people trying to sell you something on the first conversation? Or are you daunted and intimidated by the fact that you are a junior and they might be a board member or professor at your organisation?
You are not alone.
I recall going to an event about 15 years ago, and this young man asked me if I was the CEO of the company on my name badge. I said ‘no’ and was about to talk to him more; however, before I knew it, he had turned and left. It stunned me.
He had presumed that I was not worthy to talk with because of my position and my lack of influence for him. I also learnt from that occasion that taking the time to talk to someone, even for a few minutes, if they ask me a question, is a matter of manners and politeness.
How we network, how we present ourselves and how we interact is also all part of the ‘interview’ process.
You may not know it, but you talk with people all the time in an informal sense. You are therefore networking and interviewing all the time, whether it be for a future friendship, a future job, a future referral or a future business relationship.
My favourite cafe had a lovely barista who was also a marketing graduate. Being a regular, I got to know her a bit and ended up helping her with her job search, and I even went back to her to see if she could work for me at one stage. I had been ‘interviewing’ her in a sense for a year. She was always polite and treated customers respectfully, always offering to help behind the counter. She was always proactive and a team player. All soft skills a hirer likes to see.
It is also a reminder not to just rely on advertisements for your job search. A very large percentage of roles are filled via the ‘hidden market’ of roles that are never advertised.
Over 60 per cent of my roles in the last year have been filled in my recruitment business by networking, enabling me to access this ‘hidden market’ of talent. If you are networking, you may be the one I find for a role.
By networking, you can create job opportunities for yourself. You may hear about a role that has yet to be advertised, or it may end up that you are the only one applying for the role and not up against many others.
Gathering information on companies you might be interested in and how they hire is also a way of reviewing if they may be a company of choice for you.
I encourage you to look at what functions are available in your area of work that you could attend. There are many available for free, and if you search online, there are many event apps that have listings of functions, as does Pro Bono Australia (please reach out to me if you can’t find any that are suitable).
Networking also gives you an opportunity to practice your communication skills and do your ‘elevator pitch’ (as I mentioned in a previous musing – One Legged Race).
Most people I talk with actually like to help each other out.
So, are you now ready to network? Can you see the importance of it as part of your job search strategy?
Hopefully, I have given you some thoughts on why it’s important. Next time, I will talk about some of the strategies that I have used over the years and given to others to help them take the first steps in networking.