What is a network? Members of a network provide each other with information, feedback, ideas and opportunities. It is a two-way activity. Networking is not picking people up when you need them and dropping them when you don’t; it is about building and maintaining links.
Your network consists of all the people you are in contact with or have been in contact with over the years both at work and in your life outside work. If you are like most of us, you will not have kept in touch with the vast majority and you may need to build up a strong and supportive network from scratch.
Your starting point is your existing network. This will consist of people you know well who can give you information, support, feedback and, very importantly, referrals to members of their own networks who might be useful.
Networking works because of a few basic truths:
- People like to help others and enjoy being asked for their advice; it shows that their opinion is valued and their knowledge respected.
- People trust the judgement of those they know, thus when you are referred to a third person by your contact you come with a stamp of approval.
- People know people like themselves. CEOs of acute trusts know CEOs of other acute trusts, venture capitalists know other venture capitalists, so your network can gain its own momentum if you are assiduous in drawing out contacts.
These secondary contacts will also be a source of information and of contacts, ultimately reaching a referral who has the need and the authority to offer you the job you want. Networking is not a random activity but needs work and direction.
Why do we network?
There are many reasons for cultivating and maintaining a strong network:
- To share ideas. To provide access to like-minded people and those with a different perspective from our own; when we need a sounding board to test and enhance our thinking.
- To gather information, as a source of research.
- For emotional support; to maintain our motivation and to support us through difficult times.
- To identify those who can help us solve a problem or capitalise on an opportunity, whether we need a good lawyer or funding for a business plan.
- To provide us with honest feedback about our strengths and weaknesses.
- To provide us with the rewards that come from doing these things for others.
All these reasons are valid in job hunting. Ultimately, of course, you are networking to get the right job and the vast majority of people find their jobs this way. Some estimates suggest that up to 70% of all jobs are not published on publicly available job search sites, and research has long shown that anywhere from half to upwards of 80% of jobs are filled through networking.
Why you need not feel nervous or reticent about working with your network in your search for your next role.
It is an essential feature of networking that it is reciprocal; a network is a web of inter-dependent relationships. By asking for your contacts’ advice and guidance you are creating a reciprocal obligation – handing them a valuable IOU. Of course you must be ready to honour that IOU, networking is about give as well as take.
You are also giving them the opportunity to talk with an intelligent and informed professional, though you must be wary about letting your interviewee take control of the conversation – ensure your needs are met.
We all know how hard it is to find really strong candidates for openings and the first thing most of us do is to ask around to see if anyone can suggest someone suitable. We put a lot of reliance on others’ judgement and you are offering your interviewee first refusal on a top person, who may be just what they are looking for to solve a long-standing problem.
Finally, by asking for guidance you are acknowledging the expertise of the person concerned. We all love to be asked for advice and to have our views listened to respectfully; you are giving your interviewees a huge positive stroke by recognising their expertise.
So, will your target say ‘yes’ when you ask for a meeting? The odds are that he or she will. People like to be asked, like to help others and like to say ‘yes’. Some people are genuinely too busy, which is fine, others may just be unhelpful. Don’t take this personally, it’s not about you, they would be the same for everyone and will have to deal with the consequences when they need advice or help.
Reticence about networking is natural. Few of us are encouraged to blow our own trumpets and there is a natural feeling of not wanting to take advantage of a relationship, or to be seen as a supplicant, but this is absolutely not what you are doing – you are providing the person with the opportunity to be part of your network, with all the advantages that brings.
We network all the time in other parts of our lives, asking advice when we encounter a new situation, finding out what others suggest, so we should not hesitate when it is for our career and really matters.
A lot depends on the clarity and quality of your marketing material – and this is where, with our help, you can learn how to manage networking scenarios effectively. https://www.applebyassociates.com/marketing-stage/
For practical advice and support on how to build and maintain a network contact us to see how we could help.