Networking – Not Just For Fun Anymore!
What is Networking?
The word conjures up a a variety of different images in my head: TV networks; computer networks; fishing nets, hair net…Aqua Net…ok, that last one may be a stretch. But none of these are the topic of the day. Networking in this post refers to a key element of the job search. Networking with former colleagues; networking with friends in all job areas; networking with businesses that you like and patronize.
Networking (verb): To cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position.
How can you network?
Social media has made it a lot easier to network these days. LinkedIn.com, for anyone that does not know, is the world’s largest professional network with 225 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the globe. LinkedIn is THE great business network opportunity. Current colleagues, former colleagues, friends – all can be great sources of information, support, help and guidance while you look for a new job. Even if you aren’t looking at the moment, try to keep in touch with people so they are there when you need them!
Facebook, while not a job search tool per se (at least not yet), lets you connect with friends, old and new, colleagues and family too. These are all people who can help you as you are looking, or help when the time comes to look. Don’t underestimate the power of people who want to help!
Personal Research and Growth
Another element of networking is the opportunity to help yourself! Learn about a company for whom you think you want to work. Sure you can (and should) research it online, but if you are able to connect and network with someone at the place you want to work, take it!!
How Was the Opportunity Lost?
I have a pal whose dream is to work at a large university in our city. She has applied for several open positions from their website, and even had a couple interviews. But they never seemed to go anywhere as she lamented that fact that nothing had come of them.
In an effort to help her, I spoke with an acquaintance who worked at that university. Though he worked in their Human Resources department, he had no direct role in hiring. But he did offer to ask a colleague to meet with my pal to discuss her skills and see what she could bring that would fit within university staffing. I was impressed and thankful that he was willing to go that extra mile for someone he didn’t even know! (I will remember that and will try to some day help him in return. (Ahh…the power of networking!)
I was so excited to tell my job-seeking pal about this offer, because I assumed that she would be thrilled to meet with someone who not only could give her some solid feedback on her skills (always a plus!) but would be a *contact* for the future. That interviewer would *remember* my pal, especially when he heard of opportunities (probably inside and outside the university). Instead, my friend’s lackluster response, “I’ll think about it”, surprised and saddened me. This is a woman who needs a job. She hasn’t worked in over 7 months, has been applying for so many positions, often without even getting a call for an interview, and now has an opportunity to meet with someone who could help her on many levels. When I last heard, my pal was still “thinking about it” (read: Never responded to me about it again.) She lost a wonderful opportunity to network. (Even if she didn’t want to do that, a proper response would have been to politely decline the offer, not ignore the emails afterwards.)
And the moral of this story…?
Never turn your back on a chance to further your career. Even if my pal had been employed but was just looking, heck, even if she wasn’t quite ready to start her job search yet, it was an opportunity not afforded all job candidates. She could have really helped herself on several levels: practice the interview situation; learn about and ask questions toward working in a place you really want to work – could she fit into their culture? Do people working there seem happy? She would have shared her own skills so that this person, who might know about job openings and could keep her in mind for future opportunities.
Which brings me to an associated moral of this story: If you are sincere about looking for a job and/or if you really want to work somewhere specifically, then you need to take any and every chance you get to further your search, yourself and your career. Anything else is just wasting time, both yours (and mine!).
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