In simple terms, it can be said that networking is the act of expanding the breadth and depth of your network. Thinking about social networking instead of computer networks.
Just as computer networks are telecommunications networks that allow computers to share resources, a career network is the group of people you know with whom you can share resources to advance each other careers.
The goal of this article is to share with you resources so that you can understand the common mistakes that people make, and the misconceptions that exist, in relation to networking.
Most people think that networking is going to events and exchanging business cards. This is a very transactional approach that most often won’t lead to any type of real value sharing. No wonder most people hate networking events!
Building a productive professional network is a marathon, not a sprint. Those with a short-term mentality will get tired fast and won’t see results. This is a vicious cycle that happens all the time.
People go to an event with the wrong mindset, having an expectation that they will get a job or a client right there. It doesn’t happen so they start to develop a negative attitude towards networking. They keep going to events with expectations and without results, and the worst part is that any newcomers get affected by this negative energy right away.
What can we do about it?
Career Networking Done Right
Everyone tells you that is not so much about “what” you know but “who” you know. Every career coach, and most successful professionals, will tell you that you must network. But nobody tells you what it means or how to do it!
Which is why I have been reading everything I can get my hands on related to networking, and I also attend 2-5 networking events every week to put the knowledge into practice. Some of my recommendations would be:
- How to Win Friend & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
- Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi
- Networking is Not Working, by Derek Coburn
That is exactly what we are going to do. Take the necessary steps to have a clear understanding of what networking is and how to build the skills to be successful at it.
In fact, you already know how to network because you have been doing for years. You probably made friends during middle school, high school, and college. If you played sports, or did any other extra-curricular activities, you probably had friends there too. That is your personal network.
Career networking is doing the same, the difference is that at some point you will be able to help each other to advance your careers instead of just being friends. In career networking, you basically want to build professional friendships. These will not necessarily as casual as all your other friendships, but could get there at some point.
The main problem that people face is that they have the wrong expectations. Think about it for a moment, let’s say two people go to an event and both are looking for a job. A is looking for a job in finance and B is looking for a job is marketing.
If A starts the conversation talking about what he needs (a job in finance) then B is going to right away discard him as a good contact, because A is also looking for jobs not offering jobs. Yet, maybe A has a friend that is hiring in marketing.
But because A never asked, and B discarded A right away as a good lead, then that connection will never happen. This is exactly what happens most of the time during networking events, and it is why most people hate going.
Then there is the other extreme, people who know that if they offer help people will listen to them. But all they do is empty promises; they offer connections and leads but never follow through. Another reason why people hate networking.
Great networking is found between those two extremes.
A great networker is a person who has the “what’s in it for them” mindset and is searching for opportunities to help other people. Yet, because he values his connections he won’t be just offering to share them right away.
Thanks to this mindset, reciprocity will happen at some point and opportunities will start to flow towards the great networkers.
Networking Boot Camp
A great place to start is to read as much as you can about networking. There are many great resources out there, such as the books I recommended.
Also, be sure that you are creating value with that knowledge by putting it into practice.
But practice alone won’t be enough. If you want to be good at networking, you must do good practice. You must create good networking habits.
There are skills that you can strengthen to be great at networking, and just like with sports or health, you need to have someone show you the way to do it.
The BizLatte team is putting together a Networking Boot Camp to help you.
If you would like to have an opportunity to participate, be sure to stay tuned. You can do so by subscribing to our newsletter or liking our FB page. Spots will be limited to be sure to stay in touch.