Why are we more than happy to help out others, but not willing to ask for help when in need? Probably because we feel that by asking, we’re putting someone in an uncomfortable position. This is one of the reasons (or excuses) people use to avoid networking. Think about the last time someone came to you for help. More than likely, you stepped right in to help and felt good about it. So, now it’s time to let someone else feel good too. That’s how true, authentic and mutually beneficial networking, works: by helping others and helping others help you, too. Here’s a few ways to get started.
1. Cultivate Conversations: Putting canned introductions, pushy proposals or akward dialogue in the past, networking is still the best way build your career and find the job of your dreams. But you have to make it mutually beneficial. The best way to do this is to make networking all about conversations. If you focus on getting to know others and less about how to “use” others, networking becomes less “work” and more “netting” new acquaintance, career leads and learning opportunities.
2. Make it Fun: Where you share common interest with others is the best place to make networking fun. Strike up conversations around a common interests including clubs, sports, spiritual organizations, the gym, PTA or even your alma mater. When people are having fun, they’re more receptive to listening, sharing and giving helpful advice, so ask! Don’t limit your conversations to the event at hand, but take time learn more others and let them learn more about you.
3. Learn Something New: If you’re searching for a new job or in a career transition, don’t let your skills go stale. Many employers will ask about your professional development progess even if you’re inbetween jobs. This is also an great way to build your network. Many attendees at various trainings are gainfully employed and are in the know of opportunities within their organizations and how best to position yourself for them.
4. Make it Work: Just because you’re looking for a new position, doesn’t mean you can’t enlist the help of your colleagues, supervisor and professional network. Don’t advertise to the world that you want a new job, instead turn to trusted individuals in your professional network. They are great listeners, champions and advisors and can help your career transition really work if you show them how.
5. Focus on quality AND quanity: The quality of your “conversation” is just as important as how many conversations you have, as an occasional networking effort won’t net big gains. Reach out to as many people as you can, have mutually beneficial conversations and be certain to follow up. To prove my point, take this challenge: Reach out to five people in each of the following Networking Categories below this week and see what happens. If you make it fun, make it work, focus on quality conversations and are willing to learn something new, your career transition will go faster and smoother than ever.
Networking Categories: Friends, Aquaintences, Immediate Family, Distant Family, Professionals in your Industry, Colleagues, Classmates/Peers, Alumni, Supervisors, Fellow Workers, Mentors, Mentees, Local Business People, Your Professional Services Group (Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant, Insurance Agent, etc), Fellow Gym Goers Chamber of Commerce Members, Volunteer Contacts, Trade Show and Conference Contacts, Social Event Aquaintances, Career Fair Contacts, Employment Agents, Recruiters, Club Members, Speakers at Meetings, Professional Association Members, Spiritual Leaders and Fellow Spiritual Organization Attendees, Faculty, Instructors, Administrators, Training Supervisiors, Librarians, Counselors and everyone you know on your LinkedIn account.