“Secrets” of Effective Networking

By: Misti Burmeister


Effective networking really means purposeful networking, and purposeful networking is really about building relationships. No matter what you want to do, where you want to live or what specific job you seek, understanding how to network is an incredibly valuable tool. I have met many, many people who dislike going to meetings in order to network, because they think they are a waste of their valuable time—because they have never seen meaningful results. Whether you are “networking” in order to find a job, to learn who and what is out there on a chosen subject, to get into a college or university or to build a business, knowing how to network effectively is a tremendous help. The rewards that ultimately come your way as a result of networking effectively are well worth learning this valuable skill.

Networking will:

  • Give you the opportunity to get “your foot in the door” of an organization and tap its “hidden job market.”
  • Allow an organization to match a face to your name, putting you at a competitive advantage.
  • Provide occasions to listen for an unfilled need within an organization and enable you to offer your skills as a solution.
  • Give you the opportunity to learn what positions are suitable to your skill level and what skills you need to advance to the position you desire.
  • Provide occasions to practice your communication and interviewing skills, as well as develop the capacity to spring back from rejection.
  • Provide venues to meet new people and build relationships.

I was reminded of this when a client said to me, “I already have a job, so why should I waste my time going to networking meetings?”

There are a couple of important things to consider here.

First is the fact that the best time to network is when you are already in a job. When you are in an intense hurry to find work – any work – you will very likely come across as less confident in your abilities. If you are already gainfully employed and do not absolutely need a job to keep your bills paid, you will naturally be a little more confident and selective in your search process.

When I first quit one of my jobs without another one lined up, I began frantically searching for a job through networking meetings. The people I was networking with could really sense my nervousness and were clearly put off by it. It wasn’t until I calmed down, became more confident in my abilities and appeared less frantic that I began to make real headway in my search.

The second idea to consider is that while most people expect networking to produce quick results, it rarely happens that way. Simply put, it cannot be done overnight. People are more likely to help people they trust, and trust is built and nurtured over time. In general, most people are unwilling to refer your name to a potential employer until they get to know you. Allowing for time to pass, so that experiences can be shared and relationships built is vital in networking.

Taking the time to help others in your networking group(s) will make you look great and build others confidence and trust in you. “What you give is what you get” is so true, especially with networking. If you take the time to help other people in your networking groups, there is a greater chance that someone will turn around and help you.

While many people might think of networking as “scary” because there is always the possibility of rejection, networking does not need to be frightening, nor does it have to lead to rejection. When you go to a networking meeting with the intention of truly listening to others and searching for ways to address their problems, you take fear of rejection out of the picture.

For example, if you are just out of college and searching for a job in a company that needs to hire an employee with your skill set, then obviously you can help that company fill an unmet need. It’s a win- win situation– you need a job and the company needs an employee with your skills. However, if you discover that the position has already been filled with another candidate, be sure to ask if they know who else is looking for someone with your skills. It is not about being rejected – it is about filling a need – not only your need, but that of a prospective employer, even if it is not the employer you first approached.

As for rejection: yes, it is always a possibility when you make the affirmative effort to network, and everyone, even the most self-assured, is subject now and again to fearing it. Rising to the occasion and overcoming that fear is often liberating—and the best way I know of to achieve that sense of freedom and to conquer that fear is to take the focus off your own needs and concentrate on the needs of others. Yet, what if you are still rejected? If you really have put the focus on the needs of the other person, you will only conclude that the problem lay elsewhere, not with you—which certainly takes the sting out of the situation.

So, if you find you or your friends saying that you do not like to network because you think “it’s a waste of time” or are “afraid of rejection,” consider all of the opportunities that are passing you by – consider the wonderful relationships that could be forming.

It is my hope that you will become aware of the many opportunities that can be tapped and the meaningful relationships that can be built as the result of networking. If more people opened up and reached out to help each other – fewer people would feel alone and frustrated by their inability to move forward with their lives!

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