Networking – how can you afford not to do it?

Was speaking to a friend last night who is no longer satisfied with her current role.  She wants to move but has been unable to find something else.  Understandably, she is getting frustrated with the lack of success.  I asked her what her strategy was and she looked at me as if I somehow got a concussion in my fantasy NHL pool!

After a significant pause and deciding she had to respond, she flatly told me “I apply to job postings”.  If I thought I got a strange look before, it was nothing compared to the one I got when I replied “That’s your problem”.

Simply applying to a posted job advert as your only form of a job search is a kin to  using a land line as your only means of communication with others. It’s archaic and not entirely effective.

I suggested she enhance her networking.  I then realized it was going to be a tough sell.  So I began by listing the benefits:

  • you cast a much larger net with which to search
  • you find out about openings not even posted
  • you meet people as a result of positive recommendations or common connections
  • you discover opportunities you never even thought of as possible next roles
  • engaging in conversations about job searches help you and others find your next job
  • you impact this job search and the next one, and the one after that, and….
  • it costs nothing
  • it increases your visibility in your professional community
  • it allows you a great venue to pay it forward

She was not convinced.

I told her that as a consultant I meet a lot of different professionals.  As a result, I have actually built a great relationship with several headhunters who like to take advantage of my knowledge of shining talent in the area.   She was now completely convinced that I was a moron.

“What do you get out of it?”  she snorted.

She was astounded when I told her of the referrals I get either from headhunters who clients need other HR services or from professionals greatly for the referral from me.  How can you not like free advertising!

Her next objection focused on developing a pushy sales pitch.  I told her no one makes friends with that.  My advice?  Think grade 3 friend making 101 (no cliques, no crushes, no fashion police):

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Make a connection on a common interest – same event, why you are both in same location, etc…
  3. Ask about interests
  4. Ask how you could help them or ask for help yourself

I almost had her convinced until she asked the last question.  “Where do you make your best connections?”

“Me?  Why the dog park of course!  There are all kinds of people with whom I share a common interest in dog parks.  I connect them to each other, to my connections, give dog advice and get the same in return.”

She was back on the concussion theory.

I thought for a moment and then started naming the folks for whom I have found employment through our 4 pawed connection.  Then I started listing the referrals I have received from same connection.

Finally, she was convinced to give it a try.  Unfortunately she wanted to use my dog.

That’s when I remembered rule #1.  A connection needs to be based on an honest interest.  Faking a love of dogs will come across insincere.

I suggested she stick to her interests.  She is an absolute expert on coffee.  (I order a black coffee no matter where we go.  Her order differs place to place based on the offering and always involves at least 10 words).  I suggested the next time she is ordering her coffee at a favourite location to strike up a conversation with the person beside her.  Worth a try!

Of course other reliable sources are always your professional association, social media, volunteering, the gym, public transportation….

How about you?  What are your favourite places for networking?

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