When most people hear the term ‘networking’, the hairs on the back of their neck stand on end, as they envisage a large room full of people who they need to mingle with, the dreaded strategy that causes the introvert to break out in a nervous sweat, and the LinkedIn subscriber to frantically accept as many contacts they can muster, despite any lack of real connections.
In the normal climate recruiters only have access to 20-25% of jobs, so tapping into the other 80-85% of roles in the market is super important to increase your odds of securing a role. It is time to tap into your networks as the old adage says: it’s not what you know it's who you know.
Networking is essentially building relationships with people for reciprocal value. This value may not be immediate; however, making connections can lead to future opportunities. In this article we are going to demystify networking and highlight some simple strategies to help you become a star networker. It is still possible to network even when hybrid workplaces can affect the opportunity to connect with people.
Networking is a relationship game
If you want to be a star networker then you need to be a star communicator. Essentially, networking is about communicating well with people and forming strong relationships. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be an excellent communicator. You just need to be able to listen carefully and show an interest in others. You should always be professional and polite in your communication and show respect for their time.
As the great Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.”
So turn your focus to the person in front of you, listen with intent, show them respect, and be kind. You will be remembered for it, and your network will grow as people will want to be connected to you.
Treat every conversation as a networking opportunity
As the saying goes, it is not what you know but who you know.
Your next career opportunity is most likely going to come from someone you know and it probably won’t be who you are expecting. Have conversations with people and talk to them about your ideas and passions and life-long goals. Listen to their stories too. Never discredit the people you work with, your manager or boss, your friends, people in your social circle, gym buddies and even your neighbours.
We all have connections, even connections beyond our career fields. So treat every conversation, every email and meeting like it is a job opportunity because you never know what might come from it or who is considering you as a potential candidate!
You are an opportunity for someone else
Don’t forget that you can also provide value to the person you are speaking to. In social psychology, reciprocity is the theory that if you do something for someone they will return the favour. So always look out for opportunities how you can give back, make a connection for that person based on people in your network.
Some of the best networkers are those who recognise synergies and compatibility in the people around them.
Finally some practical tips:
You can still connect with people through your network. Pick up the phone, use LinkedIn, Facebook or other social channels. Organise a video coffee date on Zoom, Teams or Facetime. You can still stay connected from afar.
When you do meet for a networking meeting ask for a referral. This sounds scary, however generally as you are speaking organically they will mention if there is someone in their network for you to connect in with. If not at the end of the conversation say “thanks for your time, based on our conversation today is there anyone in your network you’d suggest I connect with?”, there is no harm in asking.
A warm referral is always best - this is getting someone in your network to introduce you to someone in their network. This connection is far more powerful as the person who is connecting you is subconsciously recommending you, so that this new connection will automatically think positively towards you.
Be strategic, look for opportunities that can expand your networks or develop your skill set. Treat every conversation and person you meet as a potential opportunity.
Consultant, Coach & Facilitator at Thriving Culture
Claire is passionate about building high performing teams and people so that they can thrive. She is an accomplished HR Consultant, Coach & Facilitator and has over 15 years experience in Human Resources, Leadership & Organisational Development and Change Management. Claire works with businesses on their People Strategy to develop their leadership capability, embed a purpose led-culture and build a high performing team. She holds a Masters of Business (Human Resource Management), a Bachelor of Behavioural Science and is a certified Facet5 (personality assessment) practitioner. With over 500 coaching hours and an accreditation with the Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership, Claire is well qualifies to work with clients as an Executive/ Leadership coach, career and small business coach.