Networking is like Karma. It does not give you instant results. Sometimes you may have no idea of how a particular person may impact you – or how you can impact them.
Consider the story of the Lion and the Mouse that shows you how people the Lion knew – but had no plan or use for – ultimately helped save his life.
Having a network of friends, acquaintances and “people who know you and trust you” is a bit like paving roads in the jungle. You may be comfortable in your cave today, but tomorrow, if you have to run, you have many roads to choose from.
Networking and the Job Hunt
Have you every hired anybody at any level? If you have, you know that a reference works to cut out a lot of the uncertainty. It builds a certain base level of trust and openness to a candidate.
As a candidate, a network allows you to approach companies you are interested through a friend who already trusted by the company – either as an employee or a client or just a friend of someone in that firm.
But it opens the door for you.
Networking is an art and it does not necessarily involve attending “networking events” though you may want to do that. It is a somewhat long-term strategy and often takes more than six months to even start showing any results. For six months, you need to network even if you wonder why you are doing this. By that time, you will be a natural at it, and somewhere along the way, it will have already started showing results.
The Art of Networking – Offline
1. Start with your college and school group.
- Join your natural groups and introduce yourself – tell the others what you are doing these days.
- If you are already in the group, share an interesting picture or anecdote of yourself at work in your current job.
- If you have recently completed an online course in your field, share your joy at having completed it.
- Respond to others sharing achievements or concerns. Share ideas, resources, even jokes – stay visible!
- Attend all reunion events you can and respond to all “What’s Up’s” with details of what you are doing and even the shift you are planning. People appreciate the humanness of the interaction and you may find help in unexpected quarters.
2. Be part of community conversations.
Do you live in a condominium? Or in a colony? Start acknowledging people on the streets and in lifts. The occasional offer of help or friendly comment about the weather is definitely not out of place. But the best is to start introducing yourself to people in lifts. I’m so and so – live at so and so number. Small talk. Use opportunities to share what you do. I’m a network engineer and I have faced such a breakdown a couple of times at work.
Sounds cheesy? Well, you will learn how to do it more confidently and even with charm after a few tries.
Simply put, this is a skill called self-disclosure that makes you more memorable for people by “personalizing” you for the listener and creating a sense of trust around you. People who voluntarily share stuff about themselves are generally considered as being responsible. Of course, you don’t want to cross the line of awkwardness and provide too much personal information to someone who is not comfortable enough with you to know how to respond. But you learn to find the balance after the first few perhaps awkward attempts!
3. Talk to more people at work
Acknowledge people and find common interests to strike up conversations. Did you catch someone watching a match? Is someone wearing a T-shirt you were eyeing at a mall? Does someone bring a sumptuous lunch everyday? Has someone been to a holiday location you’ve been considering?
Share your long-term job ambitions without bitching about your current job or sharing your immediate job hunt. Many a good idea lie waiting for you in these harmless conversations.
You may find an internal growth opportunity in a harmless conversation with your boss that started with the growing pollution in the world!
4. And finally, yes, attend the networking events you hear about
Is there a conclave, seminar, HR meet, entrepreneur’s meet – anything at all in your area? Will it kill you to attend it? If no, be there. Take a fidget spinner along if it helps – but do introduce yourself to some of the more interesting looking participants and speakers.
Sometimes, its great to join groups even if they do not relate to your job – try the local reading circle. At worst, you will be a better-read person looking for your dream job. At best, you will find a great job lead on a fun evening! One great tool is to join a professional networking group such as Business Networking International (BNI) in your area – the groups are focused on growing your business network and not job search but they do teach you to expand your network but also learn skills to introduce yourself and to start a business conversation – you may also enhance your profile by building more business in your current job in the process! Joining Toastmasters also helps in creating a network as well as learning self-presentation skills.
Does it already sound like a lot? Wait, there more J
The Art of Networking – Online
1. LinkedIn may not land you a job if you apply for jobs but its best use is for you to know who you know in which company/industry. And who you know knows who in which company / industry
The next step from there is to approach people directly and confidently share that you are looking for opportunities in the area. Can you share your CV with the person? Can they introduce you to someone in such and such company?
Of course, don’t forget to update your professional profile and (please) your profile picture as well as get more endorsements on your profile.
Join LinkedIn groups for job search to be with it rather than waiting for a specific job advert.
2. FB groups in particular areas are also great places to come across job postings as well as make connections that can lead to work projects. When joining an FB group, make sure to introduce yourself and then answer people’s questions and engage with the groups before posting your own agonies or areas where you need help
About the author: Richa leads Stoodnt in India. An IIM Ahmedabad and St Stephens College alumnus, Richa has been working with students and working professional in Career Guidance and WorkLife Skills Training for over a decade now. Richa is the author or The Ultimate Guide to 21st Century Careers published by Hachette India in 2017.