For some of you (not including the extreme extroverts who just LOVE meeting new people), the word “networking” makes you cringe. The purpose of this blog is to not only remove the cringy-ness of networking but also to explain what it REALLY is and to convince you of how important it is and, most importantly, how easy and natural networking actually is to do.
Here are three questions we will address:
What is “networking”, really?
Why do I need a network?
How do I start networking and build my network?
Here we go.
What is “networking”?
(And, of course we will talk about what it is NOT, for clarity.)
Networking is something that you do… and a network is something you build… over your whole adult life. It is a living, breathing, expanding process of building a community of people that support each other.
Networking can be as simple as talking to your friends, teachers, colleagues, classmates, neighbors, group members (doctor, vet, pharmacist, etc.)… Your “network” is everyone you know: ALSO, your friends’ friends and your family’s friends, your peers’ and colleagues’ network of people.
And if you find people interesting and you are a curious person (note that I did not say extroverted), you’ll find that networking can be easy and enjoyable. At the very least, it should not be difficult or painful, but you DO have to put yourself in a position to build your network.
- Networking is NOT asking people for a job
- It is NOT passing around your resume.
- It is NOT one-sided or selfish.
- Networking doesn’t have to be formal or organized.
- It is NOT a one-time “event” that you suffer through.
Ideally the people in this network are people that you’ve actually interacted with at some point, and you like and respect each other. A network of people works towards the symbiotic (great word, look it up) support of the people around them. That whole community thing. “Networking” creates MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL (there, I gave away the definition of ‘symbiotic’) RELATIONSHIPS.
There are also many, more “formal” networking groups, industry professional or student clubs and organizations that exist for the purpose of educating and connecting people in an industry or business (or social) community. These can be fun and helpful. These groups are typically organized, run by a leadership committee, meet regularly and forge long-term relationships among people who are truly interested in their industry, staying up with trends, and inspire, connect and motivate each other towards success, both personally and professionally.
WHY do I need a network?
You are FAR more likely to find a job – throughout your career—by networking than by applying for posted jobs online.
You should not underestimate this statement.
Statistically, “70 percent of people ended up in their current position thanks to networking. Others say it’s more like 80 percent or even 85 percent.”(source: https://www.payscale.com/career-news/2017/04/many-jobs-found-networking.
The nature of the job market, according to Right Management, is that about 70% of positions are not posted online, but rather are pending, hidden/unpublished, created/opened for the right person. Only 30% of jobs are actually posted online.
Personally, I’ve held about eight jobs in my career (and interviewed for another 25) and most I heard about through “the grapevine” (my network) or someone specifically referred me (or a recruiter called me). I rarely, if ever, interviewed for any job that I applied for online.
More importantly, since leaving my job and starting my freelancing business earlier this year, I’ve received ALL of my work through friends’ and former colleagues’ referrals of me to others. My wonderful network is coming through for me in ways I never imagined.
So, the point is, you are WAY better off investing your time in PEOPLE: meeting, listening and talking to them (and building your LinkedIn network) than you are scrolling through online job sites.
“But, Kim and Karen!’ you say. “I’m in high school. Why do I need a network?” Well, who will recommend you for a summer job or college internship? Who will say to a potential employer, “Oh, hey, my neighbor/son’s friend/babysitter/kid’s baseball coach is looking for a job like that!” Or, “Hey, if you’re looking for work, I know someone…” Who will write a letter of recommendation for trade school, college or graduate school?
It’s never too early to start building your network. Okay, so…
How do you build a network?
Newsflash: The good news is that you probably already have one even if you don’t know it. It consists of everyone you know. Your phone contacts, your email contacts, your classmates, your teachers/professors, your employers… What you NEED to do is try to capture that network somewhere (again, I suggest LinkedIn). Connect with all these people.
If you’re still in high school, your network is your friends, your friends’ parents, your teachers, coaches, church community, sports community, people you might have worked with or served on clubs and committees with. Of course, your bosses, which might be your neighbors, or people you babysat for or did yard work for.
Think of it as creating a small, simple relationship with everyone you meet.
It goes like this:
“Hi, how are you? Nice to meet you. So, tell me about yourself? How interesting. Could you tell me more about that? How did you get into that? Did you study that in school? Tell me about your career path. I’m interested in _____. Do you know anyone who does that? Really? Where does she work? Would you mind introducing me? I would really like to talk to them about how they got into that.”
Okay, so I’m over-simplifying. But here are your objectives for networking:
- LEARNING about jobs, industries, companies. ANY of them.
- Learning about people and experiences and opinions. BEING INTERESTED.
- Asking questions. Asking for advice. Asking for introductions. Asking for informational interviews.
- Helping others do the same.
Here are some critical networking statements:
- “How did you get your job in ____? Could you tell me a little about your career path?”
- “What do you like most about your job? What is most challenging?”
- “Do you have any advice for me about building a career in ____?”
- “Would you have some time to talk to me further about your career/job? Would it be appropriate for me to job shadow you or someone at your company? Would it be possible for me to come in for an informational interview?”
- “Do you mind if I connect with you on LinkedIn?”
- MOST IMPORTANT: “THANK YOU so much for your time. I really appreciate you talking to me about this!”
- SECOND MOST IMPORTANT: “Is there anyone else that you would suggest I talk to?” “May I use your name? Would you mind introducing me to that person?”
Remember that networking is a two-way street. You can always offer to help someone else if the situation arises. (examples: Write businesses positive reviews on Yelp! and Google. Endorse people and write them recommendations on LinkedIn. Refer employees. Send an interesting article. Offer THEIR kid an informational interview or to job shadow YOU once you have a job.)
There you have it. Networking is a life-long process and it is very valuable to invest in.
Think of networking like professional (and sometimes personal) karma.
If it’s sincere, you get back what you put out into the universe.
Karma or not, rather than intimidating and painful, networking should be informative and enjoyable. And trust us when we say it will pay off for you over the long run… and the very long run.