Making networking work for you
We’ve all heard about the hidden job market but I’m a terrible networker. What is the best way to get back in touch with people I haven’t spoken to for years without making it look like I’m just using them?
Networking can be hard but in today’s world, it’s a vital way of remaining connected to other people, particularly when it comes to looking for work. Project Displaced volunteer Dwayne Warman shares his insights into networking. He’s spent 20-plus years developing strategy and executing technology portfolios and major projects. He has extensive experience leading teams and implementing organisational change. Have a read.
What's the value in networking? Why is it important?
Networking provides some amazing opportunities to connect with people and build your professional connections. Research data indicates that those who regularly network obtain benefit from being innovative, in touch with industry trends and realise more career opportunities. One of the key benefits is the ability to obtain diversity in thought and opinion, to have peers to consult with and bounce ideas off.
There's a difference between networking and 'using' people, right?
There's definitely a huge difference. It can be summarised as the level of genuine mutual benefit and long term commitment to the relationship. If people reach out for one off contact there's a chance they've done that to obtain an outcome that suits their agenda.
True networking occurs when both parties approach the engagement with authenticity and make the effort to consider how they can support or assist their network connection, for example but connecting them with others.
What does a 'good' networker look like?
Good networking could be described as long term sustainable relationships between people that share common interests, values, aspirations, life or career journeys, and have a genuine desire to build and foster relationships with others. They actively seek to contribute to the success of others and are willing to connect on a social level as well.
What's the best way to reconnect with people, especially those you haven't stayed in touch with?
Reconnecting with people can be tricky and the circumstances will always be different. Don't forget that people remember you in their last context of you so if you've moved on, changed your career or personal circumstance, they will have a sense of not having common ground with you.
As with all networking conversations, planning and preparation is needed such as understanding what they're doing, who they're now working for etc. It's about finding common ground early in the conversation and catching up on old times but having a sense of purpose to why you've reached out which may be about gaining insights or getting their perspectives.
Remember, you can keep the contact social and focus on the common ground to re-establish the connection and consider perhaps saving questions for a follow-up call at another time.
Do you have any examples of where you've reached out to someone after an extended period of time? How did that go?
I have a great story of a woman I came into contact with during a group webinar. I reached out to her afterward to discuss the outlook of the energy sector. She agreed to meet for half an hour and at the beginning of our time together, she indicated that she wasn't sure whether there'd be much value in us connecting as we came from quite different backgrounds.
Nearly 1.5 hours later, we were still talking about a whole range of things that I found really useful and it was me that needed to end our time together to attend a meeting. Sometimes the connections you feel the most unsure about can be the most enjoyable.
Like anything, networking is a learned skill. If you need some guidance or support, remember we’re here for you. Project Displaced is a free service which offers one-on-one sessions plus webinars for people who are going through a job loss. Check out what services we offer or contact us to see how we can help you.