Borrowman Baker, LLC
Networking is the necessary evil for a successful career. Or, so we are told, over and over: “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.” Still, most of us feel a certain level of discomfort with networking, particularly shy or introverted people. It can seem like “dirty” business – filled with slick schmoozing – provoking a general feeling of filthiness, requiring a shower afterward.
There are positive reasons to network:
- Identify rare/hidden job opportunities.
- Make a career transition.
- Build up a resume.
- Gain behind-the-scenes info.
- Leap-frog your career.
Even so, there are many mistakes you can make along the way. Here are some ineffective networking strategies:
- Attend events/mixers and collect business cards. This strategy is unproductive, and people will forget you in a flash. Plus, no one really “mixes” at mixers anyway. People tend to hang out with the few others that they already know, and very few people make meaningful new connections.
- Email your resume to everyone in your social media network, reminding them to “keep me in mind”. This strategy rarely works. Most people are not in a position to help immediately, and they will feel pressured and uncomfortable. Plus, only about 2% respond at all.
- Make it “All About You.” Talk only about yourself and your own needs, and you can be sure that the person across from you will drop you like a hot potato. True networking is about being genuinely interested, conversational, and helpful to other people. It must be bi-directional. What do YOU have to offer? Helping someone else, volunteering, or at least being a good listener will yield reciprocal results somewhere down the line.
- Fail to follow up. This strategy is a big one. Once you have met someone and established trust, it is imperative to stay in touch. Vary your communication methods. Check in with others from time to time just to see how they are doing – no other agenda in mind.
So, what are effective ways to build up your network? The number one precursor to success is to DO YOUR JOB WELL. If you are doing something well that is valued by peers, clients, and others in the industry, your work will speak for itself. Make sure that your work is “seen,” but don’t self-promote too much, which can be distasteful. Treat everyone equally: be genuine and friendly to everyone you see, regardless of their position in your profession. Again: once you do make a connection, be sure to follow-up. You never know who may turn up to help you in the future.