Networking is using contacts made in business for purposes beyond the reason for the initial contact. For example, a sales representative may ask a customer for names of others that may be interested in her or his product. Therefore, it can take the form of inter or intra exchange of information or products between different individuals, groups, companies, or institutions.
Objectives of Networking
Networking is a powerful way of building professional relationships. It is a process of actively fostering contacts and creating ways to disseminate information. Networking comes in many forms -everything from meeting an old friend for a cup of coffee to ask how she likes law school, to having your best friend's father put in a good word for you at his company, to meeting with an older alumnus from your college to learn more about a career in social work.
Statistics from various statistical bureaus including Statistics Canada and the US Federal Bureau of Labor indicate that 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking (personal contacts). A recent report by Wall Street Journal indicates that 94 percent of successful job seekers claimed that networking had made all the difference for them.
Therefore, even if you aren't looking for a job, it is always important to keep adding to your network - both inside and outside your industry. Why? Networking allows you to be in a position to win and be in with the decision-makers who are making things happen. One of the more important sayings often heard is, "It is not what you know, it is not who you know, it is what you know about who you know." Another saying that we have all heard is "They don't care what you know until they know that you care"!
There are two basic goals to networking:
• Greater visibility
• Increased information
How do you find people to network with?
There are many ways to identify networking contacts. Here are some places to find folks who know something about a field, an organization or a school you are considering.
• Your college alumni association or career office networking lists.
• Your own extended family.
• Your friends' parents and other family members.
• Your professors, advisers, coaches, tutors, and clergy.
• Your former bosses and your friends' and family members' bosses.
• Members of clubs, religious groups and other organizations to which you belong.
• All the organizations near where you live or go to school.
What can these networking contacts tell you?
1. They can tell you what it's really like (from their perspective, of course) to work in a given
field or organization now. They can also tell you how the field has changed and what they see for the future.
2. They can help you understand the aptitudes and training needed to get into and be successful in a particular field.
3. They can give you the inside scoop on schools and training programs.
4. They can give you "insider" information on an organization, such as who is in charge, what the culture is like, what kinds of people have held the job you're looking at, what it takes to succeed in that position, what new directions or changes might be happening soon, how to customize your cover letter and resume to get noticed, how to market yourself effectively and tips for interviewing. A cover letter and resume that demonstrate that you are just the kind of person an organization is looking for can really give you an advantage.
5. They can be living demonstrations of what it's like to work in the field. Can you imagine yourself doing what they do? Does the picture you imagine feel good? Or does it horrify you?
6. Every once in a while, the person with whom you're having an informational interview will offer to help move your application along. When that happens, it can be a real advantage for you. But whether you get that offer or not, the nuggets of information you've gathered can be essential in helping you to sort out your options and present yourself more effectively.
Common Networking Errors
Problems occur when a job seeker only goes through the motions of contacting others. It is not enough to just meet someone and conduct a 15-minute interview or ask others for a lead or to pass along their resume. Whether you are approaching a colleague, a friend, a family member or stranger, how you present your purpose will make the difference between a satisfying or unsatisfying experience. Come prepared.
Beware of networking errors. (1) Be sincere; (2) Don't ask for (or expect) payback; (3) Respect other people's time; (4) Follow through on promises; (5) Use special care with referred friends'; (6) Don't make disparaging jokes; (7) Err on the side of politeness and formality; (7) Don't wait to be properly introduced - practice a self-introduction; and (8) Say thank you.
The important elements of networking can be summed up in four simple steps:
• Contact the person
• Follow up after your meeting
• Take the suggested action steps
• Follow up with the contact regularly
The name of the game in networking is regular and consistent follow up. If the contact welcomes the initial networking meeting and it goes well, they will want to hear about your progress. Remember that networking is a give and take process, offer any contacts you have and back up this offer with action.
So how do you build and maintain a network?
Most people personally know at least 250 other people, and have even more acquaintances. Harvey McKay, a well-known author and speaker, suggests keeping a Rolodex of everyone you know and putting a little something about that person on each card. McKay also suggests that you update your Rolodex on who you meet daily. Get involved in your professional association's annual meeting, nominations and elections, galas, etc. Go out of your way to meet every single person that you have the opportunity to meet. Meeting new people will be easier for some than for others, but it will be worth your while. If networking is hard for you, start on a smaller scale - but start! Another advice is being genuine, because people know if you are a phony. For some, it may take reading books to learn to genuinely like and meet new people.
Volunteering can help people who are shy or who find it hard to meet new people break out of their shells. Volunteering will afford you a smaller group to start and then you can build on that. Furthermore, volunteering will build self-esteem and confidence faster than anything else, because you are helping others. Always deliver more than you are asked to deliver.
Many people hesitate to contact others for fear of imposing or asking for help. The reality: most people are happy to do something for someone else if asked. The mistakes most candidates make is not preparing sufficiently for each meeting.