Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Networking: Creepy or Cool?

Some people hate networking. They feel like they’re too shy to do it. Or they feel like it’s creepy, manipulative. Or they freeze up talking to total strangers, and can’t find anyone who looks approachable. But: 80% of people who have jobs found them through networking. Or 60%. Or 40%. Or 20%. Why the discrepancy in statistics? Well—I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with what counts as networking.

Networking is just a newfangled word for “making friends,” or “happening to know someone,” or “being a member of an organization.” In other words, it’s something that ideally should feel like a natural part of human social behavior. 

And no, it’s not “cheating” to find the perfect job by knowing someone, who knows someone, who knows about a job opening! After all, you still have to submit an application, go through the interview and vetting process, and convince the bosses that you’re actually right for the job (and not merely a social butterfly).

Here are some websites that may help you reframe your understanding of what networking is, and how to do it:
  • What to say: http://www.businessinsider.com/conversation-starters-to-break-the-ice-2014-10. Conversation starters to break the ice suggests how you might shape questions to get a discussion going where you get more back than a “yes” or “no.” People like to talk about themselves, and you can offer them an opening not only to do that—but but ask about you and your interests.
  • Where to network: http://blog.brazencareerist.com/2014/10/06/5-easy-networking-tips-making-connections-new-city/ Making connections in a new city can feel difficult. If you’ve actually gotten a job, it may feel unnecessary—but remember nobody holds the same job forever. People grow, industries change… So here are places to look for human contact. You’re not so much “looking for a job” at the kinds of events listed here, as developing a group of friends, acquaintances, colleagues who may someday have something you want—or, you may have something they want.
  • Don’t overlook this resource: http://blog.brazencareerist.com/2014/10/01/leverage-alumni-network-job-search/ Your Niagara University alumni status is about more than just giving money and standing up to be counted as a successfully employed graduate (although those are important too!) If you enjoyed (some of) the people you met at NU, consider finding or even starting a local chapter of NU alumni. Chances are there will be some folks with similar interests and career paths as you.
  • People with surprising power: http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/be-nice-gatekeepers-hold-the-key/ Being nice to the gatekeeper is, of course, just human courtesy. Secretaries, drivers, errand-runners, waiters can be valuable allies. Any smart employer will listen especially carefully to the opinion of the receptionist in whose space you sat for the quarter hour before your interview started—because that person sees an “unscreened” version of you. How do you behave when you are not on  your “best behavior” and trying to impress somebody who has something you really, really want?

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