"Networking is an enrichment program, not an entitlement program." -- Susan RoAne
The world is awash in negative headlines right now. COVID-19 is surging across the US and globally. The election that happened weeks ago still isn’t resolved. Companies continue to lay off employees. Congress is gridlocked by political in-fighting. The list goes on and on and on.
Meanwhile, you may feel stuck in your current, unfulfilling role. Your career may seem like it’s frozen. You may be telling yourself, “no one is hiring marketers, so why even bother looking?”
However, the best time to act is when you don’t need to, but if it’s too late for that, there’s still hope.
What Networking Is (and Isn’t)
Networking comes in a variety of flavors. What do I mean by this?
Well, there’s the “oh shit, I need a job and better start networking” kind, and then there’s the “I want to learn from and get to know more people in my industry” type of networking.
One is more effective at helping you land your ideal role or in making that career pivot you’ve been daydreaming about.
Can you guess which one it is?
Hint: the best time to start is when you don’t *need* a job
I Need a Job. Better Start Networking.
Many people view networking as part of the job-seeking process and don’t engage in it until they need to.
By then, it’s too late. Your desperation can be sensed a mile away by the people you’re reaching out to. Yes, many people like to help others out, but they also know when your attempt to ‘catch up’ is nothing more than a veiled way of asking for a favor.
If you are in this position, don’t act like you’re not. Be honest and upfront with the people you’re reaching out to, letting them know you need their help.
Don’t go in acting like it’s your typical, run-of-the-mill, catch-up conversation, then turn it into being all about how you need help. They will (consciously or subconsciously) feel like they were set up, making them feel less inclined to want to help.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this type of networking. It’s an integral part of your job search. People can’t help you if they don’t know you need help.
What I’m saying is to be upfront and honest with them. The time for mutual networking and relationship building isn’t when you need a new job.
The Best Networking is Not a One-Way Street
The best time to network is when you don’t need a job. When you are more curious and eager to learn from others.
People love to share what they know and talk about themselves. Take advantage of this!
If you already know the person and have engaged with them in the past or know them from a previous role or company, scheduling a call or Zoom would be appropriate.
If you don’t know a person very well, especially if you haven’t engaged or communicated with them in the past, don’t ask for a call or meeting right away. This annoys people. You haven’t established any value to the person, and everyone is extremely protective of their time.
There’s a tremendous amount of competition for everyone’s attention and time nowadays. When you ask for a meeting without having ever engaged with someone, or when they have no idea who you are, you haven’t established a reason why they should spend their precious time talking with you. What’s in it for them?
"Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen." -- Brene Brown
The key to truly effective networking is to build it up over time. To become noticed and known among the people you want to associate with. You have to earn the call or meeting you’re seeking by establishing credibility, trust, and value over time.
This can be as simple as helping them share content they’ve written or thoughtfully engaging and posing questions to things they post on social media.
Networking Opportunities Like Never Before
We’re living in a time like none other when it comes to business and building relationships.
When, in the past, have we had access and the ability to foster relationships with some of the leading people in our field like we do now?
Social media has been a game-changer when it comes to this. If you’re thoughtful and seeking to provide value and help others get what they want, you’ll have the ability to build an unbelievably powerful and rewarding network.
When you’re not looking for a job, you don’t feel the need to make it all about you. Take the time to get to know other people. How do they think? What makes them tick? What do they enjoy talking about?
Luckily, we have access to all of this through social media.
Be thoughtful. Be selfless. Be patient. Be curious. Be genuinely interested in other people.
Do these five things, and you’ll find yourself in a place of tremendous opportunity.
I’ll leave you with a quote that has had a tremendous impact on how I look at the world, especially when it comes to my career and networking:
"You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want." – Zig Ziglar