Some of us love it and most of us hate it, but networking is a necessary evil in business today. Whether you are job searching, selling or simply building your network, at some point everyone has to get out there and network. Thankfully, technology has made networking much easier and slightly less painful. Since I have been in HR and Recruiting my entire professional career, I network all the time and always have, but if I am being honest, sometimes the thought of it makes me cringe. I’ve learned many tips and tricks along the way about the dos and don’ts of effective networking and I’d like to share some of my wisdom with you. I could create a long list of these tips, but instead I have decided to keep this short and sweet and share with you the two most important things to remember when you are networking.
You must network all the time, not only when you need something. If you only network when you are job searching or looking for people to join your focus group or for whatever reason causes you to occasionally put yourself out there, it will be obvious to those around you. Don’t become that guy or gal who pops in and out of the networking scene when it’s convenient for you. It will be obvious to your network that every time you come around you are looking for something. This approach, while it may be effective for some, will portray you as an opportunist, and that is not a good look for anyone who needs to leverage the power of their network to get something accomplished. Do yourself a favor and stay connected all the time, continually network with those around you and be present even when you have nothing to gain from it.
Always ask what you can do to help others in your network. The golden rule of networking is to always offer to help those who help you. If you need to ask someone for a reference, an introduction or a favor, be prepared to also ask what you can do for them. As a recruiter, resume writer and HR guru, I get requests every single day from people asking for help, requesting an introduction, asking me to find them a job, glance at a resume, help their friend get an intro etc. etc. … and it can be exhausting! I enjoy helping others, so I try to do as much as I can, but often times the favor is never returned. So, I cannot stress this enough, if you are asking for assistance from someone in your network, always ask what you can do to help them. You never know what they may need, and they may be too shy to ask, so if you ask for something, always ask what you can do for them in return. Another approach to this is to start the conversation by asking how you can help them, hopefully they will return the favor. If they don’t offer up assistance, at least you will be in a much better position for the “ask” once you’ve performed a favor for them. I highly suggest taking this concept one step further by helping those in your network out regularly, do stuff for others even when you need nothing in return. In addition to putting good karma out into the universe, you will also have a pile of uncollected favors sitting out there amongst your network and people will be glad to help however they can as soon as you ask.
If you are new to networking, just getting back in the swing of things or have been doing it all wrong up until now, please take this advice and make it part of your networking strategy today!