Wikipedia defines networking as, “A socioeconomic business activity by which groups of like-minded businesspeople recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities. A business network is a type of business social network whose reason for existing is business activity.”
In the early 1970s I was a graduate student at Teacher’s College at Columbia University. I took a class from a Professor Kadushin on Network Theory. Professor Kadushin claimed that you could connect with anyone in the world that you did not know with seven connections. That blew my mind. I could not imagine being given a name of someone in China and being able to speak to that person after making seven connections. Today with the Internet, I think that same exercise could be completed in no more than four connections.
Networks can be used in many different ways. In this piece I am going to focus on personal networks that can be used to advance a job search. People waste a lot of time in job searches sending out resumes to different job boards. I cannot remember a single person who told me that was the way they found a job. A statistic I have seen is that 85% of the open positions are in what is called “the hidden job market”, which means they are not advertised. People find these jobs by word of mouth or more formally by networking.
Networking Do’s and Don’ts
1) Do your homework. Have particular target companies to which you are trying to get an introduction. Know something about them.
2) Do have a business card that you can exchange with a contact.
3) Do ask a contact in your target company for a “warm” introduction. If they know the person you are trying to reach, having them introduce you will give you a better chance of them responding to your call or email.
4) Do try and meet with your target person in person. Ask for 15 minutes. DO NOT tell them you are looking for a job. Most times they don’t have one and it makes them feel uncomfortable. Let them know you are in “transition.” Ask for their thoughts on your resume (since you are seeking their advice as a colleague in the same field). Try to get this person to give you the names and telephone numbers of at least two other people that you can contact. Do not overstay your 15 minutes. Do follow-up with an email thanking them for their time and showing them anything you have done with the advice they gave you.
5) Do track the spider’s web of contacts you get. If you don’t, once you get out three or four levels from where you started you won’t remember who introduced you to whom.
6) Do get back to people with updates on your progress and especially once you find another position.
7) Do not let your network wither away. So many people put so much time into creating this invaluable resource and then don’t nurture it forever forward.
Now that you know the proper “way” to network, what are some places you can go to network? The simplest answer is anywhere there are people. Attend school sporting events or the PTA. Participate in events in your field. I am in Human Resources and am a member of the Lower Cape Fear Human Resources Association. I am also interested in the international area. I attend programs offered by the North Carolina World Trade Association. I attend meals and meetings sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Wilmington Business Journal (Power Breakfast and Healthcare Heroes). Wilmington also has many groups that sponsor happy hours. There are many things you can attend. Be clear about why you are going and try to determine if there is a likelihood that some of the contacts you want to make will be attending. Enjoy yourself at the event, but the goal is to make and follow up on those contacts.
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