Many people think networking is about calling everyone you know and asking for a job, and the stereotype of networking is pushy, overbearing, and pesty. Most people avoid networking for fear of being perceived as insincere or annoying. Even worse is the fear of rejection. Yet research shows that most jobs are filled through networking.
A successful master networker is not selfish or aggressive. Instead, good networkers show genuine interest in their networking contacts. Their goal is to establish credibility, establish relationships, and share information. In the game of networking, everyone gains something. You need to be a master networker if you want an easier time landing your next opportunity. Here are seven networking rules.
1. Ask for information, not a job.
The point of networking isn’t to ask everyone for a job. Never ask someone for a job when you’re networking. Your goal is to get information that will help you in your search. Build a relationship with your contact so that they will want to refer you if a future opportunity arises. Notice the difference in these two scenarios to know how to network:
“Ted, I’ve been out of work for eight months, and my cash is tight. Do you have any openings in your department?” You’ve put Ted in a tough spot. Even though he sympathizes with your problem, he may not be able to hire you. Possibly there’s a hiring freeze or no openings, or he’s not in a position to refer you. Regardless of Joe’s answer, you’re bound to be disappointed. To be polite, Ted says, “I don’t know of any open positions, but I can send your resume to my HR department." Bad move. Resumes typically are not reviewed unless they match a specific opening in the company. While Ted will feel he’s done what he can for you, you won’t benefit.
“Ted, as you know, I have been with a cyber security company in its marketing group. I know you’ve been in data sales for the past ten years, and I’m very interested in learning more about your industry and how marketing is utilized. Still, I’d like the opportunity to speak with you briefly to learn more about your organization and the pharmaceutical industry in general."
Ted thinks, OK, here’s a friend that wants some information and sees me as an expert on the topic. That’s flattering. I can spend a few minutes helping him. Remember, Ted knows you are looking for a job. And you are not asking him for a job; you’re just asking him for information. This approach lowers the stakes and keeps the expectations reasonable, making him more likely to help
2. Value the other person’s time.
Do your best to keep the meeting as brief as possible and still establish a relationship with the other person. When we consider this person trying to be helpful, we must remember that when taking their time.
3. Ask good questions and then wait for a response.
When networking, don’t dominate the conversation. If you have asked someone for advice, give them the chance to provide it. Consider asking questions such as those below to begin to establish the relationship.
- How long have you been with your company?
- Tell me more about what you like/dislike about your job.
- Does your company spend much on training and development for various positions?
- What is the culture of this company, and what are its mission and values?
4. Ask for suggestions on how to grow your network.
Master Networking is all about tapping into other people’s networks. Every person you meet knows at least 200 people, and you’ll quickly expand your network and increase your chances of finding the right person. See if your contacts can recommend a professional organization or some other people you should talk to.
5. Ask for permission to follow up.
If you want to establish a relationship with another person, create ways to keep your name top of mind. Ask them if you may keep them informed of your search progress. Chances are, they now feel invested in your search. Do not forget to let them know how it is going. If you read something relating to a discussion you had at a networking meeting, send it to them with a short note. Make an attempt to find at least two to three items yearly to reconnect with members of your network.
6. Find ways to reciprocate.
Of course, always be grateful for any advice or information you might gain. Let the person know you are ready, willing and able to help them should the need arise.
7. Send a thank-you letter.
Always thank your contacts in person and by email. If you want to go above and beyond, follow up with a letter. A personalized touch is always appreciated if you feel your handwriting is worthy.
Want more tips? Check out my DisruptHR talk called “The Top 5 Reasons Why I Don’t Want To Help You” for more information about how to network and land that next job!