Thursday, August 14, 2014

Networking is a 2-Way Street

Networking is a 2-Way Street!
Question:  What is one of the most common mistakes job seekers who are new to networking make?

Answer:     Not recognizing that networking is a give-and-take practice, i.e.., a 2-way street!

Setting up 1-to-1 networking meetings to talk with people about your job search a smart thing to do! 
Talking with people in your network in order to seek information and advice is a time-tested technique for finding a new position or enhancing the one you’ve got!       Why?

Because as folks in your network of contacts learn about you, and the needs you can fill in an organization, they begin to think of you in that context.  When they hear of an opening, or a potential one, in their own organization or in the company of a friend or colleague, they think of you and refer you.  That’s a triple win - for you the job seeker, your contact, and the hiring organization.

A 1-to-1 networking meeting, over a cup of coffee in a comfortable spot, allows you to tell your network contact about the good things you can offer a hiring firm, as well as to learn from your contact what they know about organizations in which you could be an asset.  In fact, It is one of the best, if not THE best, way to access the hidden employment market, where well over 80% of the best jobs are found.

GIVE as well as TAKE
However, recognize that when you engage in networking, you have a responsibility to GIVE as
Successful Networkers Give & Take!
well as TAKE.
  Sure, you are the one in need of help right now as you search for a new job, but remember to be appreciative and generous with those that help you.  (More in a minute about what that means.)

As you reach out to network contacts, you'll find that most people want to help.  They'll provide information,invite you to stay in touch, and even meet with you a time or two.  But recognize that depending on your response and subsequent actions your relationship could be short-lived or grow and extend over a career if not a lifetime.  Some even evolve into genuine friendships and business relationships.

Appreciative and generous in your response:  Giving
As a job seeker, you're the one in need and, if out of a job, the one with a small bank account.  So how do you show appreciation?  It doesn't have to be expensive.  Following a networking meeting or interaction, in addition to thanking them in person at the end of your meeting, remember to:
  1. Thank the contact who is helping you in a meaningful follow-up Thank You note.  In other words, put some thought into it!
  2. Keep in touch.  Keep your contact updated on your progress with some e-mails, a phone call or two, even another networking meeting.
  3. Look for ways you can be helpful to them.  While buying lunch right now is not in the cards, you can be helpful in less costly ways.  
    1. You can forward information on topics you learned in talking is important to them.  
    2. You can introduce or refer them to someone in your own network who would be a good contact for them.
    3. Offer to serve on a volunteer committee they are chairing.
    4. Invite them to attend a professional association meeting where the topic is of interest.  
    5. Or, offer your ideas for a work problem or new project they have, etc. . . . . .  You get the idea. 
  4.  And, a closing "goes-without-saying" thought: When inviting contacts for a networking meeting over a coffee, please offer to buy the coffee!
It's a Smart Strategy!
Networking is a 2-way street.
Setting up 1-to-1 networking meetings as an integral part of your job search is a smart and effective practice.  As you take information and support from your contact, and give back in kind, you'll find yourself moving closer to achieving your goal.   There just could be a job in it for you!  . . .  .  . It's a Smart Strategy!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tab of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
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