Networking

 

By Edwina Ross

Steve Mackay has been fixated on the value of networking recently, so I thought I would do a little digging to see if his claims stack up.

Does networking have the potential to secure us ‘that’ job? What other benefits can it provide?

Some proof of its value came from a source close to home. My daughter was poised to graduate from her university in Western Australia with a commerce degree and a major in marketing. Her prospects looked a little dire; the economy was still reeling from the GFC and the state was struggling through a resource sector bust. An unlikely meeting with a woman led to her securing employment – in finance, but a job nonetheless.

This seems painfully simplistic and it actually was, but one thing did stand out.

When the woman asked my daughter about her plans, she put her best foot forward. She was aware that this was a fairly powerful woman in the finance industry and would inevitably have contacts. She engaged in a polite and friendly discussion on her hopes for the future, in terms of employment.

Interestingly, the job she landed was a position in a different company headed up by the woman’s friend – a real networking situation. In many respects it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but then she recognised the potential of the meeting and took advantage of it.

Some of these articles are a little dated, but the basics must still apply. Consider these  headlines and refer to the links that follow for more information:  80% of today’s jobs are landed through networking - http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blogs/80-of-today-s-jobs-are-landed-through-networking. Networking Is Still The Best Way To Find A Job, Survey Says - http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2011/06/07/networking-is-still-the-best-way-to-find-a-job-survey-says/#267bad6f2754

Opportunities for networking abound, but like most everything it takes some courage and certainly some effort. Confident, ebullient people network without thinking, but for those of us who are more reserved it is not so simple. One solution to this is to become knowledgeable in your fields of interest. It becomes a little easier to engage with those who have similar knowledge and skills.

I had to take a bus into the city yesterday morning to interview a couple of students. Someone I know from my distant past stepped on at a subsequent stop and we were able to catch up a little.  As she jumped up to disembark she threw a careless question over her shoulder, “An excellent networking opportunity isn’t it, the bus into work?”

And there are many such opportunities. During your studies – even if this is undertaken online - your classmates and lecturers are all potentially valuable. Nurture your relationships with them.

Online topic specific forums, particularly those related to your fields of interest and in line with your career, can be useful.

At conferences, seminars and presentations most people are eager to meet and greet and swap cards or email addresses. The opportunity to do this is most often built into the events.

https://au.linkedin.com/ and other social media platforms may be worth considering and exploiting.

The benefits of networking are actually quite significant.  Apart from the possibility of landing a job through artful networking, it is a thoroughly useful way of up-skilling. Your colleagues at work are part of your network and you will learn from each other. You may find that certain colleagues even become mentors.

Colleagues can become personally and socially important too; like-minded individuals often turn into friends.

               

This African proverb hits the nail on the head!

Those networks that stretch across the world can provide members with diverse cultural and career perspectives and may even result in an offer of a couch to ‘crash on’ in some far-off place.

Networks can also be valuable sources of advice and information – something tricky at work may be resolved by discussing it with your contacts.

Here is some very basic advice

  • Even if you are happily employed, use every opportunity.
  • Show interest and listen carefully (eye contact is vital).
  • Ask specific questions. This will demonstrate your interest in the other person and will help you to engage him/her.
  • Be polite and gently guide the conversation if you can.
  • Your conversation about your own aspirations does not have to make a person feel cornered. Your comments can be specific, but need not include bluntly asking for a job, for example. Instead, have a conversation on your ambitions for the future or your ideas for a specific project. This is perfectly acceptable, even commonplace. You can certainly ask him/her for relevant contacts in the industry. And you can ask for advice. (This last option is flattering and is likely to encourage the person to assist you in your endeavours.)
     

I like this quote because it reminds us that we have a responsibility to others too. And whether we recognise it or not we must accept that there are people out there who can benefit from us.