Job Search Series VI.b: Networking

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
~ Mother Teresa

Networking has, sometimes, a bad connotation for job seekers: some feel they are “using” people, some feel “too shy” or “too correct” to approach people “to ask for jobs” and some think only those who “know” somebody “in” get a job…

All these ideas come from a wrong concept of what networking is and what is not…

What networking is not about:

  • Meeting people in elevators
  • Talking to all people you see, everywhere and all the time, about your job search
  • Asking people for connections
  • Asking people for favors
  • Asking people for jobs

What is networking about:

  • Building strong, lasting connections with people
  • Caring about people by sharing, listening to them, paying attention and helping them if it is in your hands
  • Keeping in touch with people, not because they may get you a job or a connection, but because they are human beings with feelings, needs and deserve attention
  • Creating meaningful connections of different nature: human-personal (such as something that may end up as a friendship); professional (by sharing resources, information and common interests, goals or projects and supporting each other); business-like (exchanging of good, services, etc), etc

How do you do it:

  • Be aware that we are “networking” all the time. More if we are new to a city, organization, etc. The way you behave, dress and what you say informs others of who you are, what you care for and what you may be looking for…even through social media
  • Plan ahead: attend to conferences, events, professional association meetings, groups, etc. where people with similar interests, studies, experience, background or target use to go
  • Pay attention to people and engage in meaningful conversations. Do not push your “elevator pitch” of “I’m this and that and I’m looking for a job on this and that”…that is the surest way to push people away from you. But be ready to share the fact that you are looking for a job and provide your business card to them
  • If people give you a lead (another person to contact, a job lead, etc.) no matter how shallow or strange it may sound, follow it. And report back to your first connection. If you ignore people’s leads, they will eventually become tired and will not share anything else with you…or they may think you are not really serious about your job search
  • Keep track of who you meet, where you meet them and important things about them. If possible, connect with them through LinkedIn and stay in touch
  • Do things for people: you don’t need to ask, just pay attention and listen. You may have a connection, or information or something that may be useful to them. People like to be taken into account and feel good when they see you care…people tend to help those they like, so even if you don’t have anything to offer now, stay open and pay attention

Other practical ways to network:

  • You may ask people to be introduced to other people (through LinkedIn or in person). To be at this level of trust, you need to earn that trust and pay forward…always thank people for what they do for you!
  • Connections are a great source for informational interviews
  • If you have made a great connection with somebody from your same industry or similar background, you may ask them to become your “mentor”. Always respect people’s time and don’t push if they are not ready
  • Connections may also review your resume or pass it to others, but again, this only happens after some trust has been built.

Go to the people. Learn from them. Live with them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have.” ~ Lao Tzu

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