Career Coach Guide to Networking
Your First Professional Advice
There’s a common saying from career coaches: “it’s not what you know, but who you know” that opens the doors to success. Today, competition is fiercer than ever. There may be hundreds of candidates, all with the same qualifications as you, applying for the same positions. Potential clients are approached by dozens of businesses every day, all boasting about why their services or products are better than their rivals. Only a few get a polite rejection and even less are shown any interest. So how can you stand out from the crowd and get your foot in the door?
The easiest way is to make professional relationships and grow your connections through networking. People are far more likely to hear your pitch if they know of you. You don’t even have to be well-acquainted. If someone a hiring manager knows and trusts recommends you, you’ve won half the battle. You need to know how to make connections, but it can be difficult to develop a lucrative network, especially if you are an introvert. Here’s a guide from a career coach on networking and how to help build yourself professionally.
Career Coach’s Take on Traditional Networking
Upon leaving education, a career coach often advises to develop new relationships and business contacts through networking events and seminars. You can approach people you’ve never met, introduce yourself, and try to convince them why they should stay in contact with you, over the hundreds of other attendees. The issue with this approach is those other attendees are all trying to do the same. It also feels very staged and fake. All but the most confident and natural speakers will find this situation awkward. For most extroverts, this is a cringe-worthy undertaking. Alternatively, for an introvert, it’s their worst nightmare. The person on the receiving end invariably feels the same, so your graciously accepted business card might go straight to the recycling bin.
Keep it Natural
So how can you make lasting connections and network more effectively- without wanting the world to swallow you up? The professional advice according to some career coaches is simpler than you may think. Use what you already have. Competition may be more fierce, but social media can be the best weapon in your arsenal. If you use it well, you’ll be consistently meeting new people and growing your network. Reconnect with old friends through Facebook or add new connections on LinkedIn to grow your network. Don’t approach them with an ask to connect you off the bat. Most likely, they won’t respond. They’re more likely to unfriend or block you. You must remember your goal is to connect with people who can help you, now and in the future.
Work on building an actual friendship with these individuals. In the beginning, ask for an informational interview to get to know the person and their work better. Additional professional advice: Keep in contact afterwards with at least a thank you or a highlight of your conversation. If you submit your resume and cover letter for a job, let them know you’re excited about the position. In the future, reconnect with something relevant to your previous conversations or something that made you think of them and their work. When you can provide something in return, it stimulates the pleasure centers in their brain. For example, if they’re in the field of marketing research, offer to provide some volunteer assistance. Additionally, recommend a new company, industry or article for inspiration. They’ll also hope that you’ll return the favor in the interests of your friendship, should you find yourself in a similar situation.
Six Degrees of separation
Ever heard of the ‘six degrees of separation’ theory? The premise here is that everyone in the world is separated by no more than six other contact points. This means that once you have cultivated a large enough network, you have access to pretty much anyone on the planet. After developing a connection with someone, ask if they know someone at another organization or company you’re interested in. Your network’s potential to establish more connections and open doors to a successful career is huge!
Paying it forward
A well-known concept, that is important to remember when making friends and networking, is, ‘paying it forward.’ The idea is to make the world a better place. If someone does you a favor, do something nice for someone else, without expecting anything in return. To make friends, and grow those friendships, you must be willing to show your thoughtfulness and generosity first. They might not all return the favor, but at least some will. If the concept perpetuates through your network, then opportunities and recommendations are bound to come your way. Work with a career coach, mentor or someone you trust to get feedback and help you keep yourself accountable. Networking isn’t easy, no matter who you are so practice your skills, grow your connections, and slowly but surely you’ll build yourself professionally.
Written by: Anonymous Gooroo Blogger