By Joe Stein
During these difficult economic times, networking is more important than ever (even thought it was always crucial). The limited quantity of positions available, along with the high cost of employment advertising (except for WNYJOBS.com) has made many of the job openings filled via networking.
With networking so important, you would think it would be an automatic for Job Seekers, but is hardly that wide spread. In fact, many Job Seekers avoid the activity like the plague. They prefer, instead, to do a more passive search, waiting for the positions to come to them.
Let’s review some tips for helping you eliminate the fear of networking:
· Change Your Definition – Instead of just focusing on individuals who have the influence in a company to have you hired, you can focus on the whole other world of people who have information. Information is such a powerful tool during a job search. Expend your energy on people who can give you names of Hiring Managers, or can give you job leads. Changing this definition and adjusting your focus will help reduce the stress of finding that elusive person who can get you hired. Plus, after you find this person, then you have the anxiety of not blowing it with this person of such high influence. Set your sights properly and the art of networking will be much easier.
· Adjust Your Perspective – Don’t look at networking as a time-consuming chore, but rather as a great way to reconnect with people. Think about all the people you have lost touch with over the years; this list will provide you a terrific start in your networking. Get excited about it because the people you connect with will enjoy your enthusiasm.
· Have Faith In People – For some Job Seekers, fear develops because of a lack of faith in the goodness of mankind. What I mean by this is there is, for many, an inherent assumption that people won’t help you. The “what is in it for me” mentality. The reality is that most people will want to help someone who is in need of a job if that person networks with them in a professional manner. Understanding this will assist you in overcoming any fear of rejection that you may possess. If anything, most people will feel good that they helped you during a difficult time, as it can be a bit of an “ego stroke” for them. A key is to not go too far. Don’t pressure people into giving you something (i.e., a job) and be sure to back away if it appears to not be the right time to discuss.
· Come to Grips With the Worst Possible Outcome – What is the worst that can happen to you while networking? Probably that someone does not help you. Now is that so bad? It is very unlikely that someone will yell at you or hang-up on you as long as you are being professional.
· People Will Not Look Down On You – Networking is not a form of begging, panhandling, or solicitation. Virtually everyone at some point was in need of a job and conducted networking. If you are unemployed, do not be ashamed of your situation. You will be surprised at how understanding people can be and how willing they are to help you.
· Dump the Shyness – I know this one is easy for me to say. The reality is that, in order to successfully network, you will need to reach out to people and some of these individuals you many not know well, if at all. Just like how practicing interviewing can make that exercise easier for a person, do the same for networking. Use friends and/or family members to practice mock networking sessions. Do this both in-person and also by role-playing phone conversations. Since the introduction can be such a challenge, create and practice a brief introduction explaining who you are/what you do.
· Use On-Line Tools – There are tools out there such as the website Linked-In, that allow you to do some networking via your computer. This allows you to do some “ice breaking” using this more passive method and then, when a comfort level as been developed, you can reach out and call the person.
· Join an Organization – It is the “pack mentality”. If you are part of an organization and can attend with people you know, it will be much easier to meet others to network with. You won’t feel like you are on a networking island if you have the support of your friends and/or family. If you have a professional or social group you can join and attend, this will significantly assist your networking efforts.
· Create a Prop – Consider creating some kind of prop, like a Business Card that you can hand out if networking in-person. This will give you an “excuse” to introduce yourself and something to talk about….your business card. This can help alleviate some of the nerves you may be feeling. Just make sure the card is one you have made up for yourself personally; don’t use a business card from your current employer. Do not carry Resumes with you, as many will consider that too forward of you.
Networking is an important piece of the job search process and anyone who is in fear of this exercise places him/herself at a significant disadvantage. Use the tips above to overcome any fear of networking that you may have.
As always, best of luck in your job search.