Yes everyone, another blog! I know, you are saying, “How does he do it?”; “The man is a machine!”; “When I grow up, I want to be him!”….. Lately, these things just seem to just flow. Incredible, I know!
My wife says I have “the gift of gab.” I won’t translate that, but let’s assume that she means it in the most positive and loving way imaginable. Actually, having the ability to carry on a good (my word, not hers) conversation is critical for today’s topic. Every professional relationship started with a favorable first impression, and grew from there. Yes, I am talking about professional relationships. If you are reading to find out how to get a date, well read on, some of the ideas will carry over; however that is not the intent here.
Networking is more than just swapping business cards and begging virtual strangers for a job. Although in fairness, a lot of people do that and only that. No, it is more like worming your way into the very fabric of those strangers’ lives, so eventually you can beg for a job! Oh by the way, that qualifies as “stalking” in at least 24 states I think.
The really good news: everything you need to know about networking you learned in grammar school. Be polite, listen when having a conversation, treat others with respect and smile. Unfortunately, in today’s world if you do those four things you will stand out. They should be the norm, but they are not. Realize that I am not talking about making lifelong friends here, although many will evolve that way. I am talking about being able to contact others for advice or referrals, or to refer someone else in your network to.
A few things to remember about networking and relationships:
- If you have waited until you need a job, you are too late. Having said that, unless you live by yourself in a cave, you already have a network in place. You just need to energize it. This is especially true when you are “in between positions.” The natural tendency is to try to keep it quiet because you are embarrassed. You may feel like you let someone down - spouse, children, family etc. Unless you were let go because of your recent felony conviction, chances are you haven’t let anyone down. This happens! I have previously mentioned that I am on career number five since the Navy. Three of my four departures were not my idea. Companies reorganize, they reduce costs, contracts end. So tell everyone you know that you are looking for a new position.
- Network with the right people. Get to know others in your industry. Stay in contact in the good times too. It’s always nice for them to have a clue as to who you are when you call looking for advice or when referring someone else. When you ask for advice, listen! You don’t have to follow it, but at least listen and comprehend what they are saying to you. Often there is some really good stuff in there. And ask for advice, not a job. I was kidding earlier. They may end up offering you a job, but let them decide, without you putting them in an awkward position.
- Be nice to everyone you meet. Yes, I know I sound like your mother, but it’s true. I heard a great true story from an HR manager who was looking for parking space in a crowded garage. She didn’t want to be late as she was conducting an interview that morning. Just as she spotted one and put on her turn signal, some guy comes from the other direction and pulls in. As he gets out of his car, he gives a dismissive wave and says, “Sorry babe, running late!” You can imagine her mood at that point. It only got worse as she spent another 8 minutes looking for another place to park. Her dark, “I’m five minutes late” mood brightened considerably when she walked into the interview room and there sat…”Sorry babe, running late.” Needless to say, he didn’t get the job. Even if (and hopefully) you’re not that stupid, the people that you meet in every business encounter will either add to or detract from your professional reputation. Try to get them to add!
- Use your internet powers for good and not evil! Social media is a great advance for networking. LinkedIn can be a great way to maintain contact with people that you know and maybe haven’t seen lately. You should primarily only connect with people you actually know. You don’t have to be big buds, but unless you are a professional recruiter or the like, putting these types of bounds will do you more good than harm. Remember: keep it professional, this is LinkedIn, not Facebook. Speaking of Facebook, don’t put anything on there you don’t want employers to see. Those great shots of you and your fraternity brothers on spring break may do a great job of reminding you of some of the things you “forgot” about your trip, but probably won’t do much for the person you want to pay you to be a mature professional. On-line job listings should be complimentary to your networking, not replace it. If you see something you are interested in, apply, but then look for someone that you know or someone that someone you know, knows to work it from the inside.
In closing, this is important. Personally I have found four of my five post Navy jobs through people I knew. Even the one I found on Monster, once hired we sort did “reverse networking” and discovered how many people we knew in common. The key to success is finding the balance between selling your great traits and abilities and being an egotistical jerk. Good luck!!
Until next time, follow me on twitter at @KHCO00 (That’s KHCO zero zero)
Good luck! Matt