How to Become Comfortable Networking
Mac Carter feels like a hero. As a HR administrator for a nationwide retailer, he has opportunities to serve people in a variety of capacities. But never has he felt better about helping someone than he does now.
Mac has a daughter in the girl scouts and while at a function with her, he met the father of one of the other kids. They got to talking over cookies and punch and Mac learned the man was an unemployed distribution manager. Knowing that his company was in need of distribution management, Mac gave him the name and phone number of a department head that had hiring authority with his company. Within days the man called to express his gratitude, explaining that their situation was fast becoming desperate. It made Mac feel good to know that he helped this man to find a job and helped his company to meet a need at the same time.
This scenario is illustrative of a typical networking success. It demonstrates the power of having contacts. The rule of "who you know" has long been a key job search component. Statistics have consistently shown that over 80% of jobs never get advertised because they are filled through the vague technique of "networking".
Finding A (Lousy) Job the Hard Way
The common job search means looking through the paper and online job postings. The common job seeker will send resumes out to all possible matches and then wait anxiously by the phone for calls to come interview. The remaining 20% of the jobs out there are largely filled by job seekers competing in this manner.
Many opt not to take the easier approach- choosing from the 80% pool- because they do not think they *can* network. In the years I have spent working with job seekers the main reason networking is overlooked is because people are uncomfortable with the process of knowing whom to contact and how.
A recent survey by Career Education Corporation shows that only 3% of working adults report being satisfied with their current employment and that more than 50% are considering a career change. How many of these working adults are in their dissatisfying situations as a result of a poorly executed job search?
Finding A Job You Love
The difference between finding a job and finding a job you love is the thought and preparation put into the job search. It is the difference between working hard and working smart. If 80% of all jobs are filled before they are ever advertised, they must be jobs that are in demand. They must be the jobs that people really love. And they must be worth the networking efforts of those that seek to obtain them.
Networking is uncomfortable for many job seekers because they think of it as a talent. Some feel that networking may be like singing or public speaking. That either you have "it" or you do not. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Acquiring networking skills and becoming comfortable in exercising them is nothing more than returning to a root behavior in all of us. As a baby, we communicated honestly. We went after what we wanted and we went to those that could help us get it. Many fail to network because of the mistaken perception that operating in this fashion is rude or presumptuous. There is nothing rude or presumptuous about being direct in your efforts to achieve a goal.
A first approach to networking needs to be a commitment to plan. Networking is a process. It requires persistence, a clear objective and a very defined effort. A comfort zone can never be achieved in networking without first knowing what is to be accomplished.
Understand that networking is all about information. Never turn to your network to ask for a job. Instead, approach your contacts for advice and information that can help in your career planning. Networking itself will never get the job. It is the information gathered from networking that provides direction on where to take action.
With that in mind, take a blank piece of paper and watch your networking plan develop as you follow the steps below.
Simple Steps Get the Networking Process Started
Who do you know? Forget for a moment what your contacts know about you or your chosen job target. Simply make a list of everyone that you know. Do not leave anyone off the list. You will not actually use the list in its entirety. But you may be surprised what any connection on the list might bring of value to your job search.
Who do you want to know? Make a list of people- even if you do not know their name- that you feel can provide good information about the kind of job you love. For example, if you wanted to explore career information in the field of nursing you can write down "a nurse at My Local Hospital". The important thing in this step is not to address specifically who that person might be or even how to establish a dialogue with them. Just make a list of those with information that can be useful to you.
How big is your list after doing this? According to recruiting industry studies, the average job seeker can list about 250 people. Even if your list is a tenth of this, it represents 25 opportunities or "action items" on your networking plan.
What You Want Your Network to Tell You
Remember that the people you contact are not going to be the ones offering you a job. They will merely provide information that will help you in your job search. Knowing what to ask them will aid you in narrowing down the different opportunities that conversations with them will provide.
When you meet with them, tell them about the job you love. Ask them their opinion and be prepared to listen and take notes. If you have made contact with someone directly related to the job you are pursuing, be prepared to ask the important questions that will make you more informed. Be sure to make note of skills you will need, education or certifications that may be required and what prospective employers need to see in an applicant seeking that position.
Do not walk away from that meeting without asking them for additional names of people that would be willing to discuss your situation with you further. This is the true art of networking- using your network to tap into the networks of others. Therein lies the power and the effectiveness of networking.
Networking Is Two Sided
Companies spend thousands training and educating their management personnel to network. It's good business. With the average new hire costing companies over $11,000 to find, hire and train, a company stands to lower their costs and risks by hiring people they know or obtain through networking efforts.
Knowing this is important if you are hesitant to ask for 20 to 30 minutes of time from someone to discuss your career plans. Most people are willing to invest this time with you because it serves them to have you as a contact too.
Networking is a critical skill in every industry at every level. It is the one career task we all share in common and it is the job that is never done. The key to becoming comfortable at networking is understanding the basic value it holds for us all.
Heather Stone is president of myjobsearch.com, publishers of the largest independent career resources directory on the Internet. After receiving her BA from BYU and MBA from the University of Phoenix, she has established herself as a career industry expert through the operation of her own career training company and continual consultation with employers and job seekers on the Internet job search. Copyright 2000 myjobsearch.com