Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Leveraging Your Professional Network

Job seekers have different perspectives on networking, in fact some doubt its effectiveness or usefulness. Networking is the art of building and maintaining mutually beneficial professional relationships. Like most things networking requires a lot of practice, but if done the right way, networking can be an invaluable part of your job search strategy especially in a tight job market like we are current experiencing.

Below are some thoughts on developing a professional network:

Be a Connector

Remember, the objective of networking is…you will not believe it…more networking. The goal is to be constantly adding people to your list of contacts. Always find more contacts to meet and, in turn, become a great connector yourself! Let people see you as a go-to person when it comes to finding contacts. Open up your network to others. Hopefully they’ll follow suit and do the same for you, keeping the cycle going. Think about those contacts who could help others in your network, then introduce them!

Be an Informer

Keep in mind that not everyone you meet will understand what networking is or how they can help you or how you can help them. Many people think that the best way they can help you as a job seeker is to take your CV and pass it along to their human resources department or HR manager. While their intentions are noble, their strategy won’t help you and could actually wind up costing you a great job.

HR managers, like recruiters, are sometimes only motivated to take action on your resume if there is a current job opening within the organization that matches your skills. If a position is not available, they have no incentive to contact you and the connection is lost.

Rather than giving your contacts a resume, ask them if they could introduce you to a member of their company so that you can learn more about their position, industry, and organization. This way, you’ll learn more about the company, share information about yourself, and begin to build a relationship rather than ending up as just another resume lost at the bottom of the pile.

Be Patient

Networking is not like “instant coffee”. While your contacts may want to assist you, they might not be able to do so immediately. Quite simply, you may not be the first item on their to-do list. So, if someone agrees to meet with you but can’t do so immediately, accept their offer graciously and patiently.

Be Genuine

When you do meet with someone, take a sincere interest in their professional career, not just the information they can offer you. Don’t push people for their knowledge or connections and then abandon the relationship. Networking means building relationships. This objective cannot be achieved by one person constantly receiving while the other constantly gives information or time.

Find ways to periodically reconnect with the contacts in your network to stay up to date on their lives, and let them know that you care about what is going on with them.

Be a Helper

Networking is all about reciprocity. No matter who you’re dealing with, you should always try to give more than you receive. For example, if you have information about a particular company, industry, or educational program that would be valuable to someone in your network, share it.

Whether you’re currently employed or job seeking at the moment is irrelevant - networking is a constant process. Obviously, you’ll be more on the receiving end of your contacts’ information when you’re on the look out for a new job. But that just means you need to work that much harder at giving information and sharing your network while happily employed.
If you’re constantly looking for ways to help people in your network achieve their goals, they’ll be much more likely to help you in return.

"You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want." - Zig Ziglar