How to Make Your Network Work
Networking is the art of building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. Frequently when I coach people who are in a job search and we discuss networking within the context of job search, many will say, "Does that really work?" Networking -- like anything else -- requires a bit of practice and finesse; but if done correctly, it can be an invaluable part of your job search campaign. Here are a few tips to help you develop a network that works for you.
1. Be a teacher
Not everyone you meet will understand what networking is or how they can help you. Many think that the best way they can help a job seeker is to take their resume and pass it on to their human resource department. While their intentions are noble, their strategy is seriously flawed. HR managers, like recruiters, may only be motivated to take action on your resume if there is a current job opening within the organization that matches your skills. If a position is not available, they have no incentive to contact you, and the connection is lost. Rather than giving your contacts a resume, thank them but tell them that what you would really like is an introduction to someone at that company so you can learn more about the company, share information about yourself, and begin to build a relationship.
2. Be a helper
Good networking is all about reciprocity. Always try to give more than you receive. Perhaps you have information about a particular company, industry, or educational program that would be valuable to someone in your network. Look for ways to help people in your network achieve their goals and they will be more likely to help you in return.
3. Be a conduit
Become a great connector for people and open up your network to them. Always think about who you might know that could help other people in your network in some way.
4. Be patient
People may want to help you, but you may not be the first item on their agenda. If someone agrees to meet with you, but can't do so immediately, accept the offer graciously.
5. Be authentic
Take a sincere interest in the lives of the people you meet. Don't milk people for information and then abandon the relationship. Nobody wants to feel like they are being taken advantage of. Find ways to reconnect with people in your network periodically to stay up to date and let them know that you care about what is going on in their lives.