If you came to my first Discover Your Career Weekly Q&A session then you’ll have heard about my first informational interview.
It was soon after university, after I got back from backpacking around the world. I was looking for a job and doing the typical hours and hours on the popular job boards at the time but I wasn’t having any luck.
So my dad set up an informational interview with one of his friends who happened to be a CEO at a local not-for-profit. I had the interview and 3 weeks later a contract came up. It was then that I realized that all that networking “malarkey” I had learned about through my co-op program really was actually quite powerful.
So I’ve been a champion of networking since the beginning days of my career. But I know not everyone feels the same way.
I think most people know that networking is the best way to find a new job. I also think that most people don’t do a lot of networking.
Why is that? Well there are a lot of reasons but I think they don’t know where to start, feel a little bit scared or have fallen for one of these networking myths. And since networking already has a sort of stigma around it, I wanted to demystify the whole process by debunking the most common misconceptions.
Myth 1: Networking is for sales people or people who want to schmooze their way to the top.
Sales people and people anxious to get ahead seem like they are “natural networkers” but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t for everyone.
In fact, schmoozers and sales individuals are only good at networking with a very specific type of person (usually other sales or schmoozers!) because networking is about starting a new relationship and open, honest communication and trust are key components to any new relationship. So sometimes those schmoozers don’t get anywhere because honestly, who wants to hire a used car salesman (unless of course you are hiring a used car salesman!).
If you are authentic and genuine in how you create relationships, then guess what you are a networker!
Myth 2: Networking is all about getting you what you want, a job.
I’m not going to lie and say that wanting a job and using your networking to help is not okay because honestly that is why most people network. But, that shouldn’t be your only goal. To me the main goal of networking is to build your network with like-minded professionals, to create a relationship that provides value to both parties involved and to offer opportunities that may not otherwise exist.
When you enter into a networking conversation, start by asking questions about the other person – about their role, their career, the company, etc. Offer solutions to any problems or issues that they are dealing with, if you have them. NEVER ask for a job.
If you get them invested in your career, they will want to hire you or see you succeed.
Myth 3: They must know everything about you and your career
You are not hosting an infomercial about you. I have had those meetings where the person goes on and on (somehow barely even taking a breath!) to talk about their experience, background and what they want and their goals. And I’m talking detail here, not an elevator pitch!
The individual does not need to know about every project you have every worked on. They also don’t need you to go through your resume with them. This isn’t about you.
Remind yourself the purpose of the meeting, it isn’t to sell yourself. It is to start a relationship.
Myth 4: You don’t really need to prepare for networking meetings
Honestly this is even worse than not preparing for an interview. Because at least for the interview, I asked you to come in. For a networking meeting, I’m taking the time out of my schedule to meet with you because you asked for help. So please have the courtesy to prepare. Don’t just wing it!
Go in with your questions that you want to ask, practice your elevator pitch and have a goal in mind of how you want the meeting to go.
As the person who asked for the meeting you set the agenda and facilitate the meeting, not the other way around!
Myth 5: You are just being a pest by asking for networking meetings.
This is one I hear all the time. Honestly, there are some people out there who may view you as a pest. But for the majority of people they will be happy to help.
Think about the last time someone asked you for advice or help? How did you feel? Probably felt pretty good about yourself. Because it is a compliment!
And as long as your priorities are right, that this is to build a networking relationship, one that is two sided where you offer help and where you gain advice and information, then anyone would be happy to meet with you.
Myth 6: Your contacts will find you a job.
Your contacts should be your top priority in a networking strategy, and a lot of the time they are really helpful in finding you new roles. But, they shouldn’t be it. Your contacts are great advocates for you, but depending on the size of your network, the number of opportunities could be fairly narrow.
Besides, why should it be their job to find YOU a job? Sure you want them to be invested in your success and therefor advocating for you when the moment is right. But you can’t expect them to go asking around for a job for you!
So take the time to build your network with individuals you haven’t spoken to before, get them invested in your success and you’ll have more advocates out there!
Myth 7: Your job is done once you get the LinkedIn Connection or Business Card.
This is another common one! That once someone accepts a LinkedIn request or hands over their business card that your work is now done. That those people are now out there, with you top of mind, trying to figure out how to hire you or to have someone else hire you.
I hate to break it to you, but that is just not the case! You need to get them invested in your career and the only way to do that is to engage them in a meaningful conversation, offer your own help and insight when relevant and to ask for advice and information. And then to keep that conversation going by following up with them over email to thank them and update them!
I know I sounded like a broken record! But networking really does boil down to building relationships.
I think that networking is probably one of the hardest things about careers and job searches. But when done right and effectively, there is no other tool that will lead you to success more than it.
If this is something you really struggle with, maybe I can help with that. I do networking specific training that focuses on building a networking strategy that will work for YOU.
Did you know that this month I’m celebrating the first birthday of my career coaching business? And to celebrate, I’m offering 10% of all my Find Your Way packages. Set up a FREE Discover Your Career Strategy call and let’s see how I can help you get unstuck and find your way to your dream career.
Sara Curto helps people find a career they love by teaching them a new way to job search.
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