My networking series went AWOL for a little while, but it’s back with a vengeance! Here is part 5. Tom Dezell is back with another guest blog. Remember my piece from the other day about limiting beliefs? Tom addresses them from the perspective of networking. Important stuff, folks!
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU HATE TO NETWORK
Well, let’s start with the good news. If you’re reading this post, you have made one positive step already. Most people avoid activities they hate. You are realistic enough to know that despite your disdain for networking, you realize you need to do it to have a successful job search.
Shortly after Ilona invited me to guest blog on this topic, I participated in a discussion on the same subject on Jason Alba’s blog. Most of the discussions focused on two critical networking impediments I believe no one who hates networking will ever get past disdaining without resolving.
Get clear on how networking really works
The first involves the huge lack of understanding of how networking works. Too many people perceive it as just contacting people they either don’t know or haven’t spoken to in a long time and asking for job leads. From such a perspective, is it surprising that people hate the prospect of networking? Most people correctly see such actions as superficial, insincere, and selfish.
But that’s not what networking is. Networking starts with people sharing information that could prove helpful to all parties involved. In the longer term, it becomes the process of establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships.
How will you be perceived?
The second issue stems from many people’s belief that having to network will ultimately lead others to perceive them in a negative manner. Someone out of work worries that he may be viewed as damaged goods.
Well with the multiple economic downturns world economies have had in the last two decades, most people have either had a period of unemployment or known a close family member, friend, or colleague that has. Any stigma has vanished.
I always ask people struggling with this how perceive someone that tells them they’ve lost their job. Once they admit they never make negative assumptions about such an individual, I ask why they assume such perceptions will be made of them.
Another individual might view her asking someone for information is an imposition on the individual’s time. We all have developed our own wealth of knowledge and expertise throughout our careers. This does not vanish during periods we’re between jobs.
As stressed above, networking is about fellow professionals sharing information which can prove beneficial to both parties. Not many people view such opportunities as an imposition on their time.
So ask yourself if any of these beliefs are what holds you back from networking. Then take a closer look at how realistic these perceptions are. Committing to improving your networking skills will take time, commitment, and patience. It will be difficult to sustain this commitment when it’s focused on an activity you believe turns you into a pariah.
Your next step is to start with a plan.
- List all activities that apply to networking. Be sure to include developing contact lists, creating call scripts, searching for people online and at sites like LinkedIn, making cold calls, sending emails, requesting information interviews, and attending networking meetings.
- Rank these in order of how comfortable you are performing each. As you develop lists of potential contacts, rank them in the same manner regarding of your comfort level contacting them.
- Set goals for your activity. A great start is to try making two contacts per day that are just beyond your normal comfort range. That way, as your comfort level increases, you can move up your list to the contacts that made you more anxious initially.
Start with a goal of scheduling one information interview a week, then expand this once you become more comfortable asking for them. Two ways to ease into attending networking events I recommend are going with a friend the first time or just observing how others work such an event before you try to make your own contacts at one. If you choose to attend with a friend, avoid the temptation to just hang with each other. Separate for thirty minutes, then meet back to compare notes.
- Script out your contacts, whether it’s on the phone or in person. Summarize as concisely as possible what you do and what you are looking for. Try to stay within 30 seconds and make certain the focus stays on seeking advice and guidance as opposed to simply asking for jobs. Always ask a contact if they know of other contacts you can make.
Understand that building a network will not happen overnight. You will need to allow these contacts time to develop. Stay patient and remember that others’ time priorities may not coincide with yours, but that doesn’t mean someone can’t eventually be helpful. Don’t just give up on someone that does not offer an immediate job lead.
When will you hate networking less?
Possibly when you see that increased contacts sharing positive information starts opening doors to opportunities that you hadn’t seen before.
Perhaps discovering that conducting more information interviews improves how you perform in actual job interviews.
Maybe when you find that many old colleagues are glad to hear from you. Recounting past projects and successes with peers provides a well-needed shot in the arm.
Or it might just happen when you find you’re spending much more of your job search time on personal contacts and realize it’s yielding more positive results than spending forty plus hours a week on job boards.
Tom Dezell is the author of Networking for the Novice, Nervous or Naïve Job Seeker. He has more than 25 years experience in career services, working with clients ranging from convicted felons to C-level executives. His web site is www.yournetworkingguide.com.