Networking Skeptic?

Recently I was asked to lead a networking exercise at an Alumni event so that attendees from different graduating classes could meet new people. As a big advocate of the power of networking, I happily accepted. While getting lunch on the day of the event, I observed a group of attendees look at the afternoon agenda and say, “I’m going to skip the networking activity – that’s not why I’m here.

Having heard similar sentiments before, I wasn’t too surprised. However, I found myself wondering, “Then why ARE you here?”

As an introvert and a busy professional, networking isn’t the most natural activity on my weekly schedule, but having experienced the incredible benefits, I’m confident it’s completely worth it. If you’re among the doubters (or are too busy, too tired, too shy, or too something else), then it’s no wonder you’re a skeptic because when you DO make networking a priority, you likely don’t reap the benefits that you want.

If you’ve written off networking as a waste of time, it may be just your approach that needs tweaking. Here are a few of the most common networking errors that may be getting in your way.

  • The “one and done” approach.  If you only network when you need a job and expect instant results, you’ll likely be disappointed. Successful networking is a two-way street that takes mutual trust and respect, which is built up over time and repeated interactions. Avoid using contacts merely as “stepping stones” and instead strive to create lasting relationships.
  • The “here’s my problem, you solve it” approach.  When networking, have you ever asked a question like, “What do YOU think I should do?”  If so, then you’re making the contact do the work for you. This is neither a question they should answer, nor are qualified to answer. Come to the networking meeting prepared. Do your research (including deep introspection) and ask targeted questions to get helpful insights and tips. If you don’t invest, why should your network?
  • The “me, me and more me” approach. Diving straight into asking for a job, spewing every skill you have onto your unsuspecting contact, or bringing a resume to an informational meeting are not great networking strategies. Be curious and conversational. Networking is a long-term strategy about planting seeds. Don’t focus on the job, but rather focus on getting to the next meeting (e.g., building a relationship vs. “one and done”).

Effective networking is not a mystery, but it does take time and effort. Those willing to make it a priority reap incredible benefits (which others often refer to as “luck”).  Take a moment to reflect on what opportunities you might have missed and make it a point not to pass those up in the future. It only takes one connection to change everything.

Happy hunting!

2 thoughts on “Networking Skeptic?

  1. Dave Campbell Reply

    I understand your point that networking takes time, however when you are unemployed, time is not something you have. For those that find themselves unemployed what is an effective way to network to help find that next job without taking 6-12 months to build a trusting relationship?

    My situation is one that I have been in banking (commercial lending) for 15+ years and tired of the unsecure nature of banking and desire a change.

    Thank you,

    • Dawn Graham Reply

      Hi Dave – thanks for responding. Time can be a huge factor, especially when you’re not receiving a paycheck and there are bills to pay. Although responding to job ads may feel faster, the ROI is usually so low due to outdated postings, high competition and overly sensitive Applicant Tracking Systems, that much energy can be wasted to end up in the same place – without an income. One strategy you can engage while networking is to get involved in temp work or pursue contract roles. The “gig” economy is on the rise, and companies and employees are embracing it for the flexibility. Not only do these roles put money in the bank, but companies often hire great workers when full-time positions open up (which is why these jobs never make it to the big online job boards). Also, this expands your network, which means more opportunities in the future. Like most healthy habits, maintaining them even when things are great is wise. So once you land, be sure to continue to build your contacts (especially on Linked In, where you create great value through 2nd level contacts), so that they are there when you need them. Best of luck!

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