Lots of people talk about networking, especially when they’re actively searching for a job. Career services and alumni professionals tout networking like it’s a panacea for the poor economy and shrinking job prospects.
Many people approach me about networking. They discuss the “difficulties” involved. They complain about how “hard” it is.
Yes, it’s work. Good and fun and rewarding things always are.
My simple advice is to have fun with other people. The other things you’re looking for will come if you’re willing to wait.
People often miss the simple point of networking - that it’s just as much about helping out the other person involved as it is about finding a job, a sponsor, or a donation. A recent piece by Barbara Gibson sent from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) reminded me of that fact.
The IABC piece had lots of concrete information on the mechanics of networking. People hear those things time and time again during the formal education process and well into their careers.
The mailer reminded me again of the karma of networking. The principle of retributive justice is, in fact, particularly applicable in regard to networking. Karma will get you in the end. If you expect something, others will expect more from you. If you give, others will give more to you.
My problem in discussing networking with others is that it’s so easy for me - always has been. But I was raised in a family that had numerous obligations for social events besides the ones involving immediate family members. We were expected to attend church, weddings, parties, and so on. At times it was tiresome and not all members of my family participated equally, but it surely taught me about how to pay attention to others when they talked. To feign interest even if none was there. To retain important information about lots of people. You could say I was born an extrovert because I didn’t have a choice otherwise.
Best yet, my networking training taught me how to find connections between individuals when they didn’t appear to have any. Helping others find connections while socializing is one of the most important components to networking.
You see, entering a party of colleagues with the idea of “What can they do for me?” is the most backward way to approach networking.
Relationship building has to be done ahead of time - before you need a job, recommendation, donation, or volunteer. If you can’t cordially call on a person before you absolutely need them, then you probably shouldn’t be asking for anything in the first place. Think about networking as a long-term investment; invest in individuals and they will pay you dividends one day, just maybe not right away.
Networking, as mentioned in the IABC piece, is just like social media. In order to be effective at spreading a message, a communication system has to be established and based in trust and authenticity first.
When we go into networking expecting something, we’re often disappointed. However, when the process is focused on getting to know others - and helping them make connections according to their needs - it’s much more rewarding for everyone.
So get out there and network with no expectations. Have fun. Meet some interesting people.
It’s all about karma, baby. You help someone else make a connection, and eventually, it will come back to you.
April 8, 2012 No Comments