Thu 13 May 2010
By now you’ve heard that, to get a job in this economy, you need to get out and network. You’re running yourself ragged going to networking events, pumping hands, handing out business cards, and nothing’s happening. You’re still not getting job offers—still not even getting interviews. At this point, you’re ready to throw in the towel and conclude that networking just doesn’t work.
I know that having a strong network makes all the difference in your job search (or business) success. So, why isn’t it working for you?
My guess is, you’re going about it all wrong. One of the biggest mistakes people make is confusing the process of meeting lots of people and exchanging business cards, or handshakes, with effective networking.
Networking is not a numbers game. It is not about how many people have your card. It’s not about how many people you know.
It is about how many people know you, value what you do, and feel comfortable referring you to colleagues and friends.
This is such an important point that I can’t emphasize it enough. During the past year, I’ve had dozens of job seekers and entrepreneurs tell me they joined a professional organization, service club or networking group, but “it was a waste of time; I never got a thing from it.” When I ask how they participated, they say they went to meetings, exchanged business cards with everyone they met, and tried meet as many people as possible.
But…when I ask them if they followed up on any of their encounters, they say no. When I ask how many referrals they made TO the people they met, I get a blank stare. When I ask if they volunteered for a committee or offered to help out with events, they say “I didn’t have time”, or “I don’t have any skills for that type of thing”.
And they wonder why what they call networking isn’t paying off?
To effectively network, you need to establish a bond of goodwill with people. You need to build connections and trust with a useful relationship that benefits both parties.
You don’t need hundreds of contacts in order to effectively network—you only need a few of the right kind of contacts. And those contacts are people to whom you have demonstrated your value.
As an example…you’re at a networking event and the person you’re talking to mentions how difficult it is to find a good mechanic. The next day, drop him or her a quick email, referencing the conversation, and recommend your top-notch mechanic. First, this demonstrates that you were listening and not just cruising through the room looking for your next target. Second, you’ve hooked up two people, both of whom will think of you in a favorable light and both of whom are potential referral partners back to you.
View your networking as the process of building solid, long-term alliances with a close circle of business people or colleagues. A good, active, knowledgable group of a dozen people you’ve nurtured and established a relationship with can be worth thousands of dollars a year in referrals. Remember—it’s not the number of business cards; what counts is the quality of the relationships you develop.
Build your network and hone your networking skills to develop solid, reciprocal alliances that benefit other people, and the benefits will circle back to you in a big way.
What are some of your favorite networking tips? Please share!