What the heck is “networking” and why should I do it?
Merriam Webster Dictionary defines networking as:
“…the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions -- the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”…
I know, I know – I hate the term “networking” as much as you do!
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I hate the term as much as you do. To me, when people talk about “networking” -- it sounds to me as though they are using people to get what they want without having any regard for the individual providing the help/assistance. So, take a deep breath. I don’t use the term “networking”. Instead, I like and advise people to have real/meaningful interactions with people and to be “straight up” and just ask for help. Instead of saying “networking”, let’s take the pressure off. We’ll talk about “connecting” with people instead. Let’s agree to go out and meet/interact with people and follow-up with them. When you go to meetings, classes, conferences and wherever else you meet people -- collect their business cards and send a follow-up email to say something like “it was good to meet you” or “thank you”.
Did you know that it’s estimated that only about 15% of job openings are posted?
Yes, indeed! That means in order to find a job, one really should “connect” with as many people as possible. If only 15% of jobs are posted – that means that about 85% of jobs are not posted. You will hear of these jobs by doing individual informational meetings with people, going to career fairs and expos, going to the supermarket, classes, asking to meet people, etc. You never know who might know of a job opening. Yes, someone might tell you about a great job while you are a host at a restaurant (it’s happened to some of our students).
What if you’re shy?
I know everyone is not a born extrovert. Have no fear … you can just request as many one-on-one meetings with people as possible. Make sure to do your research about people you are meeting with by “Googling” and/or looking for contacts on Linkedin. By just meeting with one person at a time, you don’t need to be the life of the party. Show your interest and appreciation. People appreciate sincerity and honesty. If you need help …yes, just ask. Don’t be too prideful to let people know you could use some advice.
Good luck! Go out there and be yourself. Show your appreciation when other people help you. You’ll be surprised how far you can go in life by just showing your appreciation to others. It is rare when people take the time to thank others for their help. The Harvard Business Review did a good article about “networking,” or what we’re calling “connecting” -- https://hbr.org/2016/05/learn-to-love-networking
Good luck to all! As with everything in life --- practice does make perfect!
Margaret “Mag” Gottlieb is the Career Director at the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University. Connect with Mag on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/margaret-gottlieb-1457753/ or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.