There’s a view these days that successful networking is based on a simple mathematical formula. A lot of contacts equals a lot of employment opportunities. If that were so, however, all of those who are now feverishly connecting, friending and following would be happily ensconced in a new job instead.
Networking is important in a job search, but what many people are doing today is ‘notworking’ and – as a consequence – wasting their time.
Networking is one of those rare words that say exactly what they mean. It’s netWORK. To be effective:
• you have to make networking an integral part of your workday. It is something you should do in preparation for a job change as well as during your job search campaign itself.
• you have to work hard at your networking. You must devote significant time and genuine effort to the activity and you have to stick with it, even when it feels like a lot of extra work. Think of it as an investment you make in your future, but one that will only pay off if you do it right.
Why bother? Because one-third of all open jobs are never advertised. They’re filled by networking – by one person knowing another person who puts them in touch with a third person who lands the job.
The Sport of Networking
So, what’s the key to successful networking? You have to understand exactly what kind of investment works best. Contrary to conventional thinking, it’s not the quantity but the quality of the activity that matters.
You see, networking is not a contact sport. The goal is not to score a lot of connections, friends and followers. An ever-widening circle of acquaintances is important, but it will do you little good if those contacts are virtually unknown to you and you to them.
Your mother told you never to speak to strangers. She would have been equally wise to advise you never to let a contact remain a stranger. Make new acquaintances, but do so to build a relationship with them. Said another way, networking is most effective when you see it as your opportunity to make an investment of caring – to show others that you are as interested in them as you hope they will be in you.
An Investment That Works
A meaningful relationship – especially one that will largely or even entirely exist on the Web – depends upon two critical factors: familiarity and trust. The people with whom you interact must feel as if they know you and that they can count on you to have their best interests at heart.
How can you establish those factors without the body language and tone of voice we rely on in the real world? How can we convince people that we truly care about them when all or most of our communications occur online?
We have to communicate with a theme. Every message we send must convey one simple but powerful idea. It must resonate with ‘I thought of you.’
You can impart that theme to your contacts in two ways:
• In general messages, that pass along information which everyone in your network is likely to find interesting, newsworthy or, most importantly, helpful (as they look for a new job or strive to advance their career).
• In targeted messages, that pass along information which a specific individual in your network is likely to find gracious, kind or helpful (by remembering their birthday or alerting them to a job opening in which they might be interested).
In both cases, you are taking the time and making the effort to help others. You are, in fact, thinking of them. Your investment in caring is denominated in generosity and compassion. Those attributes provide their own reward, of course, but more often than not they lead to an additional return on your investment. They earn you the interest and support of others, and in today’s tough economic climate, nothing is more valuable.