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Everybody is always telling you that networking is how most people get jobs. But I can't think of anyone who hears that who doesn't feel a sinking sensation in their stomach and a sense of...
- I don't have a big enough network
- My network is out of date
- My network is in another industry
- I've moved and I don't know anyone in the area
- I hate to call people and ask them for a job
- I hate to call people out the blue anyway!
- I have no idea how to use networking to get a job beyond just calling my contacts
Concerns like these are normal, and there is a lot to learn about networking in the world of LinkedIn and social media that can enable you to leverage existing contacts, connect with hiring managers, and avoid the cold call.
But today I want to focus on one aspect of networking that most people don't consider. Let's call it the "Above & Beyond" aspect. If you adopt this approach, networking will become easier, more fun, more natural, and, yes, more rewarding in terms of getting you in front of the hiring manager. This A&B approach, once learned and implemented, will become a solid foundation for ongoing networking that will most likely yield your new jobs of the future, as well as new customers or clients, if that is relevant for you. Here are some examples:
- When you talk to people at networking events, parties, church, your club, or work, go beyond the superficial. Dare to inquire seriously about the other. "How are you?" can be said in an offhand, rote way. Or it can be said with a real desire to know something about what's going on in that person's work or personal life.
- Dare to be deeper in your self-disclosures as well. Maybe it will be about what your passion is - in work or in avocation or in values. Maybe it will be an opinion of yours that is thought provoking or controversial, anything but boring! Not only will what you say differentiate you, but it will invite a more emotionally rich connection that will greatly strengthen your ties going forward.- Follow up in warm and meaningful ways on a regular basis. How many of us do this? And yet our success in business and job search and a lot else is determined by our care and feeding of our networks. Get a system that works for you. You'll need a contact management system and a tiered system of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree contacts.
- Become a connector of people with other people and resources. Help your connections gain access to information and people who will benefit them. This is a very rewarding practice, if time-consuming at times. This means going the extra mile for your connection, an act of caring and concrete support that will not soon be forgotten.
You can see people of the A&B school in almost any group. They stand out because of the strength and number of their connections. Because they care - about the other person and/or about something that matters to them - they have richer bonds with others.
A book I love on how to become a great networker is by Keith Ferrazzi and is called "Never Eat Alone." He is an inspired enhanced networker par excellence. Do yourself and your career a huge favor and read his book - or get the audiobook and listen to it on your commute.
Relationships formed in the A&B manner will be there when you need them. When you are next in your job search mode, you will have a tiered network of contacts for whom you've been a boon, with whom you've connected on a more personal level, and by whom you are known for who you really are.
The A&B strategy takes networking from a place where you feel helpless, vague anxiety into one where you feel natural, sincere, and in charge of your fate. It's a strategy for every place and time. It's a strategy for a lifetime.