Friday, May 7, 2010
Career Development: Networking for the Socially Inept, Introverted and Reluctant
Here are the things I have learned about networking which really helps:
What is the purpose of networking? In the contex of a job search, your network will be the number one way you will find a job. If you've heard of the hidden job market, it's the 80% of the jobs businesses are hiring for but never get posted. The only way you'll find out about them is if you connect with enough people that know what and how to connect you. Outside of the job search you can think of your network as a vast web of information and connections. When you need a plumber, a doctor, or a restaurant, you call your network. In other words, for your entire life you develop and nurture your network. You learn as a small child that your network will share toys and sack lunches. We all have networks but we often times think of them as family, friends and work associates. Whatever you call them, you have developed enough of a relationship to call upon them for help and support throughout your life.
Who is your network? I could write one sentence here and be 100% accurate. Your network is everyone you know. The obvious ones like I mentioned above but also clients, vendors, people you hire, the wait staff at Starbucks and the list goes on. I should also add that you know something about them. You certainly know limited things about them because of the place of business or setting but that is enough to get started.
$64,000 question: How do you develop a network and get pas the social Willy's? Think of networking as creating relationships with people. An how do you create relationships with people? By getting them to know them. You ask them questions about themselves! This was something I knew but didn't "know." People think you're a fabulous conversationalist if you ask questions about them. The more you ask other's about what's going on in their life, the more you learn and can relate to in the future. Let me give you a personal example. When we got married, my dad didn't know but 4 people at the reception. Yet for months afterward, people would convey to me the fact that they had got to kow my dad and thought he was great. Turns out, he would approach someone and them "How do you know Terry and Dorothy?" That was all it took for him to enter in to other people's lives. He asked these people about their life and found a mutual association to do it. Guess what I do at wedding receiptions and parties now? I'm never at a loss of an opening line. I've now expanded the questions like: How long have you been a part of this group? What compelled you to join this group? This means you don't have to be a great conversationalist in the sense that you don't really have to think of thought provoing banter. This isn't about you; it's about the othr person. You simply need to ask good questions that are open ended. If you're getting ready to go to an evernt, consider creating a list of questions associated with that evernt. If you can have some questions related to a person of mutual association that always works like my examples above. You can also ask about the event or group or business that is involved. It's that simple. I wish someone would have told me that about X years ago.
Refinement tips: Think of your networ in three layers. The first layer is people you now well, have a developed relationship and know details about. The second layer is peoples you know fairly well in that you know details about. The second layer is people you know fairly well in that you know some detsils about them and periodically associate with them. The third layer is people you know only superficially. Your goal is to move a few more people into the first layer and a bunch into the second layer. I'll give you some ideas on how to do that.
When you go to an event and start introducing yourself to people concentrate on quality associations. You don't need to "work the room." If you can walk away from a room of stranges and feel like you have connected really well with 3 or 4 people, then call your networking a success.
If you're like me, you need to make notes to remember some information about the people you're meeting. Obviously, for a networkto work you need contact information buty make notes on key things you've learned about your new contacts. This will help you move the relationship forward if you've made them important enough to remember information about them.
The first rule of any relationship is to give to it. You must give your time and attention. The simplest way is email. Whe I email, I often times simply ask about something going on with them. I'm also constantly thinking of things I can share like links, websites, and articles or connecting them with someone they might find valuable. You can't tap into relationships without demonstrating your goodwill first. following this process will not only move people into top two layers, it will enrich y our life.
Your network is a living, breathing, dynamic organism. People will come in and go out of your network you whole life. The sooner you realize how easy it can be to develop a network the sooner you can breathe a sigh of relief about the next event you go to. See? That wasn't so hard was it?
By Dorothy Tannahill-Moron
Until Next Time
Jeane' Elliott Bennett