Bored of cocktail parties, talking to many people you hardly know about trivial things, hardly anybody listening to you? If you have this attitude, then you are probably not very good at networking. Yet most of the jobs are filled through this method. Many applicants and job seekers are looking for a job or vacancy in the wrong place. Every day and every week they look for vacancies in newspapers or on the internet. But what is the reality? Only some 30% of vacancies are directly visible through newspapers, trade journals or the internet, whilst around 70% of vacancies are not immediately visible and go through a network.
Not many people know
This came to me only after researching about networking. I knew that people get jobs through this method, but did not realize that most jobs do not even make the paper or the internet. If you are like me, you might hate networking, however, in this article I will attempt to take away some of the misunderstandings. It might help you to realize that it is not what it seems at first glance. To take away one wrong thought right from the start: networking means asking for a job. It is not, it is asking for information. I will explain how this is supposed to work and what you can do to take part. Networking is good for some, but not so good for others. If you are in the last category, I will give you an entirely different way out at the end of this blog. Let me start with the definition.
What is networking?
To get a good idea of what networking can mean when finding a job, you first need to know what the definition of networking is. If you consult any dictionary, networking is described as follows: it is the creation, development and maintenance of social contacts in order to obtain information that can be used to your advantage in your profession or career. You see, asking for information puts less pressure on people than asking for a job!
How people react to networking
Experience has shown that some elder people find a job more easily via networks than by sending application letters. For many people, the word “networking” unfortunately has a negative connotation. When it comes to networking, they mainly have the image of business networking at business meetings by people in a tight suit, with a drink in hand and a smooth chat. The idea of finding a job in this way scares many. In addition, “I don’t have a network at all” is often the first response and “I’m not good at selling myself at meetings like that” is usually the second. I am afraid I was one of these people.
But again read the definition of networking at the top of this article. It clearly states that networking means that you are trying to get information to help you find a job. If you expect that you will have a ready-made job waiting for you through networking, then you have a wrong view of networking. Networking can help you to get one step closer to your dream job. That is the its power. Of course easier said than done, so what to do?
Creating a network takes time
If you are reading this right now and you think you should start, you may be too late. Creating a network actually continues throughout your life. People are coming in and people are hopping out, because this is an ongoing process. The good news is that you can of course start with it at any time. Creating a network takes time and effort. You do not do this overnight. But as you will see most of us already have a basis for a network. Let’s get to it.
How to build a network
Before you start networking, you should have a good idea of what you can do, what skills you have and what you are looking for. This will be your starting point. Then follow below four steps in the order given.
Step 1: Certainly people who have been without a job at home for a while often have the idea that they have no network. Fortunately that is not correct. Your network starts with the people closest to you: tell your family, friends and acquaintances that you are looking for a job (and what kind of a job!). This is going to be your core network.
Step 2: Here is where social media get more important. you will try to get into the second ring: family of family, friends of friends and acquaintances of acquaintances. Look for a family member or a friend with an extended network!
Step 3: Approach former school mates and colleagues, friends at sports clubs and hobby clubs. In short, everyone who could already be in a network, but you did not know that they formed your network. Contact people again. Even if this is a while ago. Renew these contacts. LinkedIn is an important tool for reviving contacts. Make lists of these contacts and add where you know them and what they do. In this way you build up your network and this results in valuable new contacts.
Step 4: Approach people you don’t know at all! Right here social media can help greatly, after all, you are not asking but looking for a job and just want information.
Maintain your network
This part is often forgotten. Maintaining a network takes time, but the time you invest in it can be invaluable. So regularly send a message to your contacts, pick up the phone or agree on meeting with them. Don’t just walk past these “old” contacts at meetings because you are focused on making new contacts. Stay connected with your entire network. Old and new!
Do this consequently and continuously and you are also expanding your network!
What do you need for successful networking?
I said before that networking starts with a good knowledge of yourself. So what are you looking for? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you have good communication skills?
Good communication skills include:
Can you have a good conversation?
Can you listen well?
Can you interpret non-verbal signals?
Can you present yourself? Do you know how you come across with someone else? Your attitude can also deter people from contacting you. Be aware of this.
As a networker you must be alert. Do you dare to seize opportunities when they arise? You must be very alert to the conversations around you. What do you hear, what do you notice? Save that information and do something with it. But be spiritually present at the conversation you are currently having. There is nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who always lets his eyes wander in search of a more interesting conversation partner.
You must also have a helpful attitude. You are not only there to take but also to give. Exchange information if you can help someone else with that. That creates trust and it will also make it easier for you to be called upon. A goal of networking is also to build trust in your network.
What do you ask your conversation partner?
It sounds very logical, but tell your conversation partner that you are looking for a job. You may ask who you should contact if you are looking for a job in a certain industry. Never give your CV, but ask specific questions. A conversation lingers better than a cached CV. Often the recipient cannot even remember who the giver was. A nice conversation stays in the memory for much longer.
If you keep in mind that you are looking for a job, you can also steer a conversation in the right direction. By asking specific questions, you can integrate your job search into the discussion. If you receive tips, immediately follow them up. Don’t miss an opportunity by waiting too long.
What to do being an introvert?
What do you do when you are like me, being more of an introvert? You hate all these parties and senseless talking, but here is the thing. People who are introverted don’t have to worry that they are bad in networking. On the contrary, they have advantages over extroverted people. Introverted people can listen very well, they let the other person talk first and they feel heard.
Introverted people are also good at observing. They look closely at the person they are talking to, and they are often very curious – they are more open to new things.
So, do you think you have got what it takes? Then go ahead and try it out.
On the other hand, I know there are people out there who can’t be bothered by all this. If you will indeed have nothing of it, then why not follow my number one recommendation to eventually get out of the corporate jungle?
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