How to Network With Comfort and Ease
You want a new job — but what’s the best way to find it?
Networking, of course.
Networking is hard, however. You have to go out and meet people, and then you have to ask those people for help. It’s a daunting task — but it doesn’t have to be. You can become more comfortable with networking if you learn to view it as honest communication between people.
The Old View of Networking
Guidance counselors and career experts have told you all your life that if you want a job, you have to network. They’ve all painted the same picture of it, too: You have to put on your suit and head to a job fair. You have to stand in line and wait for your turn to talk with a company representative. You hand the rep your resume, and the two of you do some painful small talk about your skills. You fake interest in the company so that they might ask to interview you later. At the end of the conversation, you walk away with a plastic bag full of branded pens and sticky-notes. You move on to the next booth. You start all over again.
You hate networking. You find it selfish and dishonest. You would rather stay home, post your resume on Indeed, and beg the job-search gods for mercy. But that doesn’t work, does it?
You need to involve people in your job search; you need to network. As the old saying goes, “It’s all about who you know.” No matter how much you hate networking, you have to suck it up and do it. What a drag.
The Value of Networking
Before you convince yourself networking is nothing more than a necessary evil, you should take a step back to remember why it matters.
Communication is important in all relationships, right? When you want something, you have to let your partner know. Your partner can’t read your mind. If you don’t tell them what you’re thinking or feeling, they’ll never know.
It’s the same with potential employers. If you want a job, you have to tell people you want a job. If you have potential, you have to tell (and show) hiring managers you have potential. If you have marketable skills, you have to talk about them. Otherwise, no one will ever know.
The New View of Networking
What happens if we start to think of networking as another form of communication? It becomes just another way to tell people about your wants and needs.
If you speak clearly and with honesty, people will want to help you. And the people who can help you when networking don’t have to be recruiters and hiring managers at job fairs. Your friends and classmates can help you. The person in front of you in line at Home Depot can help you.
Networking is communication between human beings. Consider what you say and how you speak when you’re networking. Be honest. Tell others who you are and what moves you. Tell them what you can do and what you want to do. This way, you are not only being honest with others, but you are also being honest with yourself.
You are not just looking for a job to make money. You are looking for opportunities to do work that fulfills you. You want to make a difference. People — including employers — find this honesty attractive, and they admire people who seek great things. If you network with honesty, more people will want to help you.
Applying the New View of Networking to Your Job Search
What can you do to make networking more like the new view than the old view? Follow these best practices:
- Answer the Question, “What Do You Do?”: When someone asks you this question, answer with complete honesty. Tell them what you do, but also what your goals are. If you do not have a job, tell them what you want to do. Don’t hesitate; get personal. People will be attracted to and inspired by you.
- Look for People Who Might Want What You Can Offer: We’ve been taught that it’s not polite to eavesdrop. Well, forget that. Listen to conversations everywhere you go. You might hear someone talking about a problem you can solve. You might hear them asking a question you can answer. When you do, talk to them. Offer your expertise. They will be happy for your help — and when you do help them, you will have made a new connection.
- Make a Cold Call, But Be Warm: Cold-calling is a classic job-search tactic, and it can still come in handy when you do it with the new view of networking in mind. Look for a company that you think you’d like to work for. Call the company; talk about what drew you to it; ask for more information. Then, talk about yourself — your skills, your goals, and why you think you would fit well at the company. Soon, you will find yourself in a pleasant conversation with a new connection who may be eager to help you.
What do these three best practices have in common? They all involve open, honest communication about your own wants and needs. That’s all networking is.
By now, I hope you’ve shed your early impressions of networking and now see it for what it is: an interaction between honest, passionate people who want to help others.
Does this sound like you? Are you eager to help someone in a way that you feel strongly about? Would you like someone to help you reach your goals? Then go network. Take those first steps. Start some conversations.