Networking, when done correctly, is one of the best ways to accelerate your career and enhance professional relationships. When I receive an inquiry from an IT executive seeking a new opportunity, I always suggest networking as a part of a successful job search.
Some networking groups are more effective than others, and some networkers are more productive than others. I’ve seen people in desperate need of a job waste an entire networking event talking to one of their buddies. I’ve seen others stand in the corner, unsure about how to work the crowd. Here are some tips on how to ensure that the time you spend networking is productive and helps you reach your objectives.
Choose the Right Networking Groups or Professional Organizations
Select a professional organization or networking group that is consistent with your targeted field and level of expertise. Find out in advance which groups are most likely to provide job leads at your level and in your field — otherwise you may be wasting your time.
Keep the focus on meeting the right people – those who may know of a current or upcoming opportunity. Some people spend too much time with a group that is inconsistent with their goals simply because they feel comfortable there. And unless you hit the jackpot with a single organization or event, consider joining two or more groups.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Once you have selected a couple of groups that are consistent with your targeted position and field, beware of situations that can erode confidence and affect your marketability. The following examples illustrate my point.
- You Meet a Hundred People with Similar Goals. It is possible to attend a function and find hundreds of candidates in attendance with a mission that is similar to yours. Don’t let this discourage you. Your next employer will be looking at several candidates with highly similar skillsets and they will choose the one whose personality, attitude, goals and career path are the best fit. Your unique qualities will help you secure the position that is right for you, and wrong for the majority of other candidates.
- You Meet Your Arch Rival. It can be sobering to meet someone with a more advanced degree or impressive credentials. These acquaintances might even be your competition at the next interview, but you can turn this into an advantage. The more you know about your competitors, the more prepared you will be to win against them. So in addition to researching prospective employers at networking events, make it a point to meet people who are looking for similar positions. Who knows, one of them may send you a lead for a job that wasn’t exactly right for them, but might be perfect for you.
- You Meet People Who Have Been On the Market Too Long. Don’t stress when you meet people who have been out of work for a while. The average candidate is just looking for a decent paycheck with decent benefits, and they will bemoan the fact that they have been unemployed for too long. Don’t be that person. Star performers are passionate, interesting people who are looking for an opportunity to contribute and add value, and they just haven’t found the right opportunity yet. They go the extra mile to network and meet new people.
Make Networking a Habit
The best networkers are those who understand that networking is not just about landing a job. It is about developing win-win business relationships that accelerate career growth. They come to share information and learn how others are dealing with similar challenges and goals. In doing so, they have the opportunity to help other professionals while meeting their own career objectives.