When Networking isn’t Working for You

Networking is important; you hear it all the time, especially when you are looking for a job. To do it effectively, it is not only time consuming but for some people it’s downright uncomfortable. You might also ask yourself: if everyone is doing it, where’s the competitive advantage for me?

Here’s the secret: Most everyone is doing a poor job of it. If you are able to network well (even if you do dislike it) you’ll be well ahead of the pack.

For most people networking is a big drag – something they do only when forced to. There’s that luck-of-the-draw feeling about it, especially when you hear stories about how someone was at the right place at the right time. You tell yourself: if you’re not a golfer or a regular at happy hour, you’re doomed. You’d rather be at home with a book than out there schmoozing strangers who would otherwise bore you; wouldn’t time pass more quickly on your couch? At least you’re less likely to spend money when you’re at home.

Still, despite your preferences, you find yourself out there. But this networking thing’s not working for you. Let’s look at some possible reasons why and what to do about it.

1. Attending industry and networking events ranks right up there with a visit to the dentist.
Are you more than a little tired of seeing the same familiar faces month in and month out? You feel networking events are a great opportunity to meet people who don’t have jobs. But they’re terrible for meeting people with jobs. (If you were happily employed, would you hang out with this crowd?)

Your fix: Connections and courage. Make connections beyond these networking-only events. Have the courage to ask for introductions to leaders and experts in your field, to your counterparts in other companies (even your former competitors). Go to conferences and receptions. Go to every event you’re invited to. Volunteer to serve on committees.

2. Your calls to friends always end up in voice mail.
You might have burned out your relationships by being so focused on your frustrations in finding a job. Think about your recent conversations. Are you just hearing the sound of your own voice in your memory’s ear? Can you even name your best friend’s kids anymore?

Your fix: Mind your manners. It’s natural to use your friends and industry colleagues as a safe place to vent. But if you just use them as immediate connections to your next job opportunity, you’re going to burn out these relationships quickly. Definitely let them know that you’re looking for work — there’s no shame there at all. Ask them for introductions to people they might know who would be able to move your search forward (a co-worker, for example, might know someone who knows someone). Don’t put them on the spot of always having to say no when you ask them, “Do you know of any jobs out there?” Remember one of the key principles in networking is to give something first. Find a way to give something of value to that person whose assistance you are seeking.

Word to wise: When you are introduced to people, remember to thank your friends (thank all of your networking partners, for that matter) with e-mail updates, even formal, handwritten notes from time to time. Everyone likes to see their friends make progress out of a life crisis, and everyone likes to feel appreciated for the part they played in your journey to better times.

3. You just can’t seem to squeeze in the time necessary for networking.
You may be tempted to focus your time on activities you feel will bring a more certain conclusion and that will give you the satisfaction of feeling immediate progress. Yes, you deserve those gratifications of jobs well done — or, well, at least done. Yet somehow, you just never get around to making those phone calls.

Your fix: Commitment. For starters, commit yourself to a goal. Begin with five phone calls a day. Make it easy on yourself: If you need to, have scripts ready to work off of, so you don’t have to start cold with each phone call. Be comfortable (in your desk chair, not your couch). Commit yourself to filling your “funnel” of contacts and leads, just like salespeople do. With every “no” you hear, you still have plenty more phone calls to make and conversations to follow up on … and no single rejection is ever the end of the world.

4. You’re doing everything right and your networking still isn’t working.
How do you know it’s not working? OK, so the obvious is indisputable: You still don’t have a job. But with enthusiastic networking filled with a variety of contacts and introductions, you’ve set events in motion that you might not even be aware of: People may be talking about you and brainstorming with each other about whom else to introduce you to; someone might be checking with HR right this very minute to see how a position can be created for you.

Your fix: Patience. These things take time. Yes, the mortgage is due. But your alternative, which is to not network at all, will get you nowhere. Keep up your commitment. Keep growing your connections. Remember to be courteous to your friends and expanding your networks.

And the right job will come.

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