There’s no denying that the strength of one’s professional network has bearing on one’s career success. It’s estimated that 70 – 80% of all jobs are filled via networking. Strong networking skills allow us to effectively uncover new opportunities, forge lucrative partnerships, and continually advance in our careers.
So, understanding the importance of networking why don’t we feel comfortable and eager to do it. Do any of following sound familiar?
I don’t want to ask for a favor. Many people think that when you network you’re asking someone for a job. But this is not the goal of networking. When you network, you never ask for a job. You ask for information about an industry, company, or position.
Fear of rejection. Many people fear that if they ask for information the other person might not be willing to talk to them. While it is true that not everyone will agree to meet with you, many people will extend help to you and you have nothing to lose by asking.
Lack of awareness regarding the effectiveness of networking. Most people in a job search spend too much time canvassing the open job market, the market everyone gets to see through job posting boards and recruiters. See my recent posting on Phantom Job Postings for more on the ineffectiveness of relying on job postings.
Far fewer explore the hidden market; the jobs that are never posted, but instead are filled through connections. The odds of finding a position through the smaller, hidden market are greater than those in the open market.
Not comfortable talking to people they don’t know. Sixty percent (60%) of the population considers themselves shy. This perception leads to less networking. If the prospect of speaking to someone you don’t know is overwhelming right now, start to build your network by talking with people you do know such as friends, family, neighbors, or your doctor or dentist.
If they can lead you to others who can help you gain necessary information for your search, your network will grow in a steady, comfortable way.
Uncomfortable talking about yourself. Many of us were raised to be humble and not to brag. Networking and interviewing requires that you talk about yourself and your accomplishments. When you talk about your skills, you’re not bragging. It’s only bragging if your discussion contains hyperbole, half-truths, or lies.
Expecting things to move too quickly. Networking is an ongoing process. Like a child, your network needs time to grow and you need to nurture it along the way. You must pay attention to your network to keep relationships strong. Many contacts are not able to lead you to the person capable of making a hiring decision, today. But, you never know how that contact may be helpful in the future.
Regrettably, many people believe that networking is only useful for landing a new job. They tend to only reach out to their connections and build their network when they are searching for new opportunities. In contrast, the most effective networkers will stay in touch when they aren’t actively searching for new opportunities. During these times, they focus on giving, not getting. They offer to help others by, for example, volunteering to provide warm introductions, imparting advice on career advancement, and bestowing industry knowledge. By building relationships without any intention of reaping tangible rewards or benefits, they build connections that are more genuine. When it does come time for them to search for new opportunities, their connections are more inclined to assist.
Rick Christensen: Director, Career Transition Practice
Rick’s passion is coaching individuals through career transitions, developing career management strategies and in identifying and sharpening competencies to open doors to new opportunities. His efforts have assisted thousands of individuals achieve their full potential.