Share this article:
Bookmark and Share

What is Networking?

Networking is the skill of contacting people you know to get information about people they know who might be able to help you get information about jobs. While many people believe networking is a short-term 'project' of getting your name in front of people, handing out business cards, etc, this is not how good networking works.

Good networking is a long-term, life-long tool that not only helps you get the next job, but also a position three jobs from now. Talking to people because 'they might know of something' rarely works. If someone asks you if you know of any openings in a particular department, you would say 'no'. But if they asked you for a contact to find out more information about the industry, you would be more likely to give them a name.

This is how networking works. You contact the people around you, get referrals to people you don't know and as you spread further away from the people you know, the closer you are to finding your next job.

Everyone in your life is part of your network, and it's probably bigger than you think. They can all help you and you can help them. You should learn what you can about each individual, acknowledging his or her skills, experiences, talents and needs. The people you know are "warm" leads. It's much easier to expand your knowledge of these people, than it is to pursue "cold" leads.

People who would be in your "warm" leads would be family, friends, neighbors, other professionals, suppliers, clients, co-workers, clubs or association members, volunteer groups, and acquaintances. These people will be easier for you to approach about networking, information in the industry, etc. It is important to look for people who will support you and look out for your best interests. Avoid anyone who would be discouraging or jealous. A way to figure it out is to identify what matters to you and use these as a guide for the people you want to meet.

The first time you meet a new contact, you can't expect to receive referrals right away. It's important to build a relationship before asking, and they will want to be certain of your sincerity before giving you names of people they know. You should ask a lot of questions but don't be too pushy. As time passes, and you keep in touch, you'll hear of things going on within companies. You won't have to ask your new contacts if there's a job, they will tell you what's happening. Never put them on the spot and ask them for a job.

There are four important types of help your networking contacts can give you: information, contacts, connections and referrals. As the relationship builds, so does the information you gather and the referrals you receive. Soon, you'll be working a network that will be mutually beneficial by providing support, sharing resources, and looking for ways to promote your colleagues. The idea is to think of networking not as being something you can get from someone. Make connections where you become the resource, and learn to give before getting.