I recognize that networking is difficult for some people, but it truly is the best way to find a job. In my book, one of the 5 STEPS is “Create a Network,” and it’s the second longest section of the book, with 14 tips to help you build your network. (The longest section is “Prepare for the Application Process,” with 16 tips.) In this post I want to provide some advice on how to overcome any reticence about networking.
But first, perhaps it would make sense to try to think about that reticence—why are some people hesitant about networking? An article by Barbara Sofani from Career Solvers lists ten common reasons people give for not networking:
- They see it as asking for a favor.
- They’re afraid of rejection.
- They don’t think it’s effective.
- They aren’t comfortable talking to people they don’t know.
- They want to do it on their own.
- They’re uncomfortable talking about themselves.
- They don’t want other people to know their business.
- They don’t know how.
- They want instant results.
- They think it’s too much work to keep at it.
When we look closely at this list, the reasons break down into two categories: a lack of confidence (1, 2, 4, 6, & 7) and a lack of awareness (3, 5, 8, 9, & 10). So let’s tackle those categories one at a time.
If you aren’t networking because you lack confidence, try some of the following strategies:
- Start with online networking—LinkedIn is important in today’s job market, so start there. Build your online network by connecting with people who have similar interests , who are alumni of your college, who have jobs you think you would enjoy, who work for companies where you might want to work, or who live in cities where you want to live. When you ask to connect with them, tell them the reason why you want to connect—don’t just send a standard “I want to add you to my network” message. Briefly describe your career goals and ask to connect. Once you have some connections, look to see what groups your contacts belong to and join those groups. Learn to use all the tools available to job seekers on LinkedIn!
- Practice your elevator speech until you can comfortably describe yourself and your career goals orally in about 30 seconds. (See Tip 22. Create and practice your elevator speech.)
- For face-to-face networking, start with family, friends, neighbors, and part-time job/internship/co-op supervisors and co-workers. Be clear about what you’re looking for as your first (or next) job. Ask them to share your resume with any contacts they may have .
- Use the resources provided by your college or university. This could include doing practice interviews/elevator speeches at a career center, attending networking workshops, joining student or alumni organizations, asking professors for references, or joining student chapters of professional organizations.
Once you’ve followed these suggestions, you should feel more prepared to start talking to strangers at job fairs or meet ups, or when given other opportunities to talk with people who can help you build your network. See the 14 tips in my book’s >Step 4. Create a Network for more ideas.
If you’re not networking because you’re not aware of the value or process for networking—GET OVER IT! Networking is the single most important thing you can do to find that job once you have the degree in hand that leads to the career you want. Just recently I have heard about students who got jobs through (1) the friend of a friend of a parent, (2) a regular customer at a coffee shop, (3) the salesman at a used car lot, (4) an internship supervisor, (5) an alumnus, and (6) a representative at a career fair. Seriously, that’s just this past week! In fact, I haven’t recently heard a story about a student getting a job that DIDN’T involve networking.
For a very small investment (under $10), the tips in my book can give you more advice about how to network!