We all know that job networking--the personal process of finding opportunities and being referred and recommended for a job--is the most effective way to get hired. This is an undisputed fact that is supported by dozens of studies and surveys. To say today's job market is "competitive" is a felonious understatement! If you are qualified, then the most meaningful way to separate you from the pack or should I say the mountain of resumes is by networking. So if your job search and/or career exploration does NOT include a robust networking component then you know you have seriously reduced your chances to succeed. It is the most fundamental premise of this blog and I usually assume that we all get it.
So why aren't all smart people employing a networking strategy? The answer may be as complex and diverse as the population. However, I have observed three common behaviors that undermine people's networking capabilities:
- I do not have the networking gene. We tend to be so hard on ourselves. We believe that many talents are in our DNA or not. That we are born artistic or not. That we are good public speakers or not. That we have been dealt a stack of chromosomal cards and that hand can not be improved. We think about networking in the same way. But it isn't true. Yes we all have been born with many strengths and talents. Only a few of those talents will be developed during our lifetimes. Clearly some have been born with great gifts that they have discovered and others live in ignorance of them. Most of us mortals have to try and work with what we have, which is always more than you give yourself credit. Great evidence that people can develop any and all of their talents. Art, public speaking, and leadership can all be honed from novice to extraordinary levels with practice and persistence. Strengthening the networking muscles is even easier. There is no special networking gene. Everyone has the capacity to network well with very little effort.
- I just don't have the time. We tend to take the path of least resistance. Networking takes another step or two. And let's be honest, we are lazy. We know what we have to do and maybe we feel even confident about our networking ability, but it is easier and simpler to just send in the resume and cross our fingers. In doing this, we have inconveniently forgotten the value of the network. Investing a little time and effort in networking, especially in the job search, will yield far greater outcomes.
- I just need some help right now. We have not adopted the lifestyle, the lifestyle of networking (and mentoring) all of the time. We fall back into the old habits of only using networking when we have an urgent need. Adopting the lifestyle requires that you network continuously. Not just when you need a job or a favor. How do you feel when you are on the receiving end of such a request? We always have to avoid desperation networking. Networks are nurtured in good times and bad. They are a precious investment that need time and attention. Make a withdrawal from your network bank to address your current need, just remember to make regular deposits of goodwill to keep your account strong.
All of these behaviors are rational and defensible. Part truth, part fear, part procrastination, part time management, and part humility. Doesn't matter how much each part represents, it is a recipe for lost opportunities. Opportunities that are sitting right in front of all of us.
Some people are born great networkers, some achieve great networking, and some have great networking thrust upon them.--apologies to Shakespeare. Who will you be?
Like most things, we become better networkers by doing. Knowing and not doing is a masochistic sin.
First of all anyone can do networking and do it well. Networking does not require:
- Any formal training or techniques.
- A personality makeover--to be more extroverted for example.
- Any cold calling. There is always a preference for warm calling.
Here are some basic things that we all have to be reminded about:
- Networking focuses on your existing network. People you know well, people you trust and who trust you.
- Networking is ethical and uses your unique comfort to guide its limits. In other words, you are never going to do or say anything that feels wrong.
- Networking is mutually beneficial process that builds community. Helping each other is part of life and being human.
So if you have no existing network of associates, friends and family. You are not ethical. And you are not interested in helping one another. Then you are right, networking is an innate and esoteric skill that you will never master.
On the other hand.......
You must connect with people to get feedback on your resume, to get an insider perspective of the companies you are targeting, to get a direct referral at a senior management level to make sure your resume gets read. You do this by connecting with your network and by communicating your needs and interests. Connect with your network about your short term needs and adopt the lifestyle. Connect with your network to make it stronger. Just connect with your network.
I have tried to reduce the number of excuses that hinder your networking. You have the right DNA, you have many hidden talents, you have the potential to be a great networker, you have the time, and if you have the will, your horizon of opportunities will be far greater.
Thanks for reading. John