Not everyone is comfortable with networking. You may not like the word, the thought, the activity, or the entire concept. But the facts continue to show that networking works. More jobs are found by personal connections, referrals, asking the right questions of the right person, and being at the right place at the right time.
Jennifer Harris, a 35-year-old sales director for a manufacturing company, goes out of her way to establish relationships with anyone she does business with. Over the years, she has gotten job offers, has repeatedly asked if she knows someone just like her to work at their company, or simply leads for her own company.
Face-to-face networking remains one of the best ways to find work or earn a promotion, even in today’s era of electronic résumés, online applications, and social media. The concept is based on building two-way relationships with people who can help you improve your business or career. It is a process that involves making connections with colleagues, peers, and business associates, as well as strangers.
Networking can make some people cringe but for others it is a natural and important part of their business life. By using personal connections, job seekers can distinguish themselves and display the coveted people skills many employers seek. Recruiters and hiring managers agree that a referral can make the difference between tossing a résumé away or giving it a second look.
Anyone can be a source for you and you can help impact so many other people, too. Face-to-face networking is far more powerful than social media networking but you need to do both. Personal connections just make a difference, that’s all. You have to be memorable. Companies don’t hire; people hire people.
Children are taught never to talk to strangers but that advice is “crap” in business. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, get over it. You need to learn how to approach people you don’t know. Cast a wide net, “work the room,” and you will be amazed at who you meet.
Great resources for networking events are industry membership organizations that sponsor networking events, locally and nationally. And your local Business Journal hosts or promotes many local events (www.bizjournals.com), as well.
If face-to-face networking is not part of your job search or business-growing plan, add it right now! Set a goal to attend at least one evening function per month, then increase that to two. Have a system for capturing the business card information in your contact manager and follow up with key people within 48 hours, especially if you want to meet with them.
Good networkers take the initiative. Learn how to walk up to a group of strangers or simply engage with one person standing alone. “Hi, I’m Dana and what brings you here tonight?” or even just, “Hello, I’m Dana. What is your name?” The key is to do more listening than talking.