Networking is already a difficult task for jobseekers and those merely wanting to stay connected to their network while already employed. Finding networking events, asking the right questions, introducing yourself to someone new, exchanging business cards, and following up can be downright daunting. Today, I would like to discuss a way to take some of the pressure out of networking: remember it isn’t about you!
We tend to look at networking as that opportunity to meet, hopefully impress, and ultimately get something from engaging a new contact. I am here to say that is too much pressure, and not the way to look at your interactions, and that instead you should always network with the intent of helping the other person. By taking the burden off of yourself to “perform” and as an alternative learning how you can help others, you will reap better quality contacts, individuals will be more likely to help you, and you will appreciate or even enjoy networking to a much greater extent.
When having a conversation with a potential contact, ask questions that help you discover more about them and what they are wanting from the interaction. Those questions can include:
--What brought you here today?
--Where do you (or did you) work?
--What do you like most about your current job (or recent job)?
--What does your job entail? (This is a much better question then just asking “what do you do?”)
--Are you working on any interesting projects?
--How long have you been in your current field?
Now you can discern important information to offer some help. Are they looking for a job – perhaps you can tell them of a company that is hiring in their field? Are they new to LinkedIn – perhaps you can tell them about how to use the tool more effectively in a job search or for overall career management? Are they new to the area – perhaps you can tell them more about the companies and industries in your city?
When you help others, they tend to return the favor, but if they don’t you haven’t lost anything, just move on to another person. Try this approach and you will find yourself less stressed about networking in general, and people will very likely offer you some important referrals and leads that can help your career. To your job search and career management success!