It’s easy to become comfortable in your current job or workplace and think that networking efforts aren’t really necessary. Because that’s what it is – an effort, right? But not staying professionally current and connected can have serious negative implications on your overall career development.
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The reality is, change is inevitable and it often happens when we are least expect it. Not being equipped with the right tools for your next search can cost both precious time and possibly even a position you were hoping for.
On average, job hunters without viable networks spend the first two to three months of a job hunt building a new set of contacts. This is why networking regularly sets your career up for long-term success.
Susan O’Dwyer, head of business development for a leading public accounting firm, made an excellent point when she said:
People in transition often wait to connect with people when they need help. They have allowed themselves to be consumed by their job, travel and other priorities, and not nurtured their relationships along the way. When these bonds wither and die, not only are they difficult to resurrect, you lose access to people who really know you and could speak to your talents and skills as a credible reference.
Networking can be taxing, no doubt about it. I also acknowledge that not everyone is comfortable with the process, and some even find it to be somewhat dreadful. The key is to make the way you network fit your personality and style. Like any big task in front of us, thinking about networking in small chunks makes it more manageable, and even enjoyable. Here are three ways to network with intent and avoid burnout:
1. Focus on helping others
Networking can feel very “me”-centric. It’s a common mistake among professionals to only reach out to their network when they need something, which can come across as intrusive and needy. When meeting new connections, use it as an opportunity to ask what you can do to assist them first. Reach out and offer advice, make an introduction, recommend their work, etc. These simple gestures can help to create more lasting connections.
2. Networking is best one-on-one
Meeting over coffee is a more natural way to carry on a conversation versus large group gatherings. You don’t need to start out cold either. Meet first with people you have known over your career and people with whom you have another connection (kid’s sports, school, church, family, etc.). From that meeting, ask them to make 2-3 introductions via email to people they know who may be aligned with your professional goals. That “warm” introduction allows both parties to feel comfortable about meeting.
3. Build time into your schedule
Networking can’t be something that happens “if I have time.” By not making it a priority, it’s constantly weighing on you as something you aren’t getting done – and that can be more exhausting than actually networking. Set aside time for 3-4 lunch meetings per month with those you need to catch up with, or contacts met through a peer that you want to get to know better. Integrating networking into everyday activities is what will yield the most successful and mutually beneficial relationships.
Keep in mind there isn’t one roadmap for how to network. By making the process your own, you will feel most at ease and be able to capitalize on this important career development tool. A change in attitude and approach will lead to more professional opportunities than you will know what to do with. What have been your favorite networking techniques and tips?
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