by Therese M. Heeg
“Networking is not about being interesting. It is about being interested in others.”
Whether you are an individual facing a layoff or a business owner riding the waves of this pandemic, now is an opportune moment to build networking relationships to help you navigate this challenging time.
Throughout my career, I have used a deliberate approach to build personal connections as I made decisions and managed change. As a coach, I have shared this strategy with hundreds of professionals at all levels and across industries.
This article is the first in a series of articles about networking in today’s world. Below, I outline the what, why, and when of networking and in subsequent articles I will share the how and then move into networking in a virtual world.
I first learned about the power of networking when I moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to begin my career. At that time, I was very introverted and didn’t know anyone in the city, but I knew I wanted to find a job doing what I love. So I picked up the classic book “What Color is Your Parachute” by Richard Bolles, learned about the process of “informational interviews” and dipped my toe into setting up cold calls with complete strangers to ask for career advice.
I targeted organizations that fit my background and made phone calls to introduce myself. Surprisingly, I had success getting face-to-face meetings with leaders at each organization and even more surprisingly, within the first few meetings, I had already met two people who knew each other! And I ended up landing a job from one of them. From there, I was hooked on making these connections.
What was the secret to my success?
I learned early on that networking is not about being interesting. It is about being interested in others. It has now become a habit that I can’t turn off; my curiosity about others drives me to connect with people wherever I go.
As I have continued to make time for these authentic connections, I have built a career that I love and a thriving business doing what I love.
What networking is:
A way to develop two-way relationships that benefit both parties.
What networking is not:
Taking advantage of others, “using” people, job begging or any other one-way communication that some people think of when they hear this word.
The gift of networking:
As I said, networking is a two-way street. The people I contact are focused on helping me, but I’ve noticed they also allow themselves to take a breath during our time together to reflect on what is most important to them. They relive their successes and share stories. And some are reminded of how important it is to make time to make connections.
Why networking matters:
We are social beings and we rely on relationships in all aspects of our lives. Whether you are looking for a new barber or nail salon, or are considering where you want to live next, I bet the first thing you do (after you have done some initial thinking) is share your options with others and ask for their ideas and experiences.
When it comes to managing our careers, networking has consistently been the top way we land jobs. In a recent article by Korn Ferry Global Talent Company – “Job Hunting During a Pandemic” – they cite a 2018 survey of 1,000 companies that shows “the odds of someone getting a job are considerably higher if someone within a company recommended them.”
According to this research, 78% of the more than 320,000 hires the firms made were “offline,” meaning that the candidate came from somewhere other than an online career site.
When is the best time to network?
The simple answer is today, tomorrow and the next. There are many reasons you need to build networking into your normal routine.
- Job search or building a business: Networking is a great way to get information and advice from people you know to help you develop a plan, think through your choices and link you to other people. These referrals can get you closer to the person who can ensure you are part of that 78% who find the job offline. If you are growing a business, you will get closer to that next client through referrals from these connections.
- Navigating a life change: This is the perfect time to reach out and build new relationships. For example, if you are a new parent trying to balance your career decisions while having a family, talk to people who you see living the life you want to live. If you are considering retiring, target people who you think have retired successfully.
- Career growth: When you are fully employed, it is a great time to build your network in your industry. By doing so, you will continue to learn best practices, know where to show up in terms of professional association meetings and online networks, and you will build connections that will carry you through your next job change.
- Career change: If you really are not enjoying your job or your line of work is not as valued now as it was in the past, you may need to make a change. First, you will want to do some research, maybe work with a coach and take assessments to find out what options are a good fit for you. Then, reach out to people doing those jobs and meet with them to find out how they got started. Find out what they love about their work, what they don’t love and ask for advice and referrals to others.
Again, even though we live in a more digitized world, it doesn’t diminish the fact that we are human beings who rely on social connection. I believe it is even more important (and easier) than ever to build and maintain relationships as we navigate new technology.
Stay tuned for the rest of the articles in this series including Making Authentic Connections during COVID Chaos and Networking in A Virtual World.
Therese Heeg is The Networking Coach. She has worked with global coaching and talent development firms and currently operates her own business in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, helping individuals and organizations make better choices and build better relationships so they can enjoy their work and life. Set up a time to network with her here: https://ThereseHeeg.as.me/ or email her at email@example.com. You can also connect with her on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thereseheeg.
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