It’s estimated that only about 40% of jobs are advertised. This means that the majority of jobs are filled by word of mouth and networking. But what exactly is networking and how do you go about it?
When most of us think about networking we imagine entering a room of high powered executives, each ready with their business card and elevator pitch, ready to ‘sell themselves’. But is that really the most effective way? I would argue that even using the word ‘networking’ fills many of us with dread when we imagine putting ourselves forward in that way. Perhaps it jars with our British mentality of not boasting and being modest about our skills and achievements.
So here’s how to approach it:
1) Don’t wait until you are out of work.
It doesn’t come naturally to many of us to start thinking about creating a network until we really need it, such as when we are looking for a job. But the best way is to continually create a network so that it is already in place when we really need it.
2) Be a good listener
There’s no doubt that the best networkers are also the best listeners, and take a genuine interest in other people. We have all come across people who give the appearance of listening, but who you know only have one ear on what you are saying, while their eyes are scanning the room for more interesting people and conversations. They can’t even wait for you to finish before they jump in with their very important point. So look to make connections with people by listening carefully and attentively to what they are saying, rather than delivering a prepared speech about what you are good at.
3) It’s not all about asking for a job
Although your ultimate goal may be to get a job, see networking more as the passing on of information. Networking is a great way to research a new career or industry. You could ask someone who is doing a job you are considering moving into, how they got there, and what are the satisfactions and drawbacks of working in that field. And don’t forget to ask if they can recommend anyone else who might be helpful to you and to ask what you can do for them.
4) Think about what you can give rather than what you can get.
When you meet someone new, think first about what you can do for them based on your conversation. Do you have a contact that might be really useful to them? Have you read something that connects with their interests? Be generous with your contacts and resources. With the laws of reciprocity, if you have done someone a favour, most people will do their utmost to repay you.
5) Use social networks
Social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn are brilliant tools for getting connected. Use industry and professional groups to start conversations. Approach your connections for introductions, advice and information.
6 ) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
For many people the most daunting part of networking is asking for help. But in my experience, most people are delighted to be asked, and will do their best to help you. Put yourself in their shoes – if someone asked you for a 10 minute ‘phone call to ask for some advice, how would you feel? I am sure you’d be flattered and delighted to help.
7) Keep in touch
Once you have built rapport, remember to keep in touch from time to time. You could send an occasional email with a link to interesting article or event they may be interested in.
• Make a list of who you know who might be helpful- friends, family, ex-colleagues, suppliers, customers, contacts from your interest groups, clubs and societies
• Identify other existing networks you can join such as industry groups and conferences, events and forums.
• Systematically plan your approach. Have a clear idea of who you are going to approach, how you are going to make contact and what you are looking to gain from each interaction.
• Make use of chance encounters. A friend who works in a charity shop started chatting to one of her customers and mentioned that her son was looking for opportunities in the film industry. By pure co-incidence the customer was a film producer who was looking for a runner for his next film! Her son has never looked back after getting his first break in an industry that is notoriously difficult to get into.
Think of networking as a great opportunity to meet and chat to some interesting new people, rather than as pitching and schmoozing to a room full of strangers, and you’ll find it enjoyable and fun, rather than a daunting prospect.
If you feel I could be of any help to you in your search for a new job please then please get in touch via the contact page.