To a considerable extent, networking has been a necessity when it comes to finding a job or launching a career perhaps since the dawn of civilization. As a matter of fact, for generations upon generations, people have observed that when it comes to the job market, often it’s not exactly who you are, but who you know. Studies have shown that 27% of new hires at companies often happen as a result of referrals and people believe that 80% of these jobs are the result of some form of networking. Networking can be the simple exchange of information between people at a restaurant or coffeeshop, or it can just as easily take place when somebody posts an announcement about a job on a website. In fact, as internet use becomes more and more widespread, networking has become a particularly essential in the job market, especially with the advent of such websites as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Meetup and LinkedIn, all of which are designed for the very purpose of people – particularly employers and hopeful job seekers – connecting with one another.
For the more gregarious folks, getting out there and circulating could not be any easier or fun. They simply like to meet people, whereas shrinking violet types may feel pangs of anxiety at the very notion of shaking hands with a complete stranger, regardless of how benevolent that person may be. But in today’s world, the more reticent ones are not necessarily at a disadvantage. In fact, you don’t quite have to be somebody who enjoys working a room or telling the story of your life to be good at networking. Introverted individuals are often very polite, ask for personal referrals, are good listeners and they will often bring a friend to social events. These behaviors all suggest that these people, for all their diffidence, are better at networking than they think!
There are many ways networking can be made both easy and fun for all people. If you prefer to go out and meet others and person, choose a place or an event that you enjoy and at which you feel safe and comfortable. If you are more of a homebody, set up an account on as many social networking sites as you wish. Either way, the opportunities are limitless. Do remember that networking is not so much all about telling people who you are and what you do. It is about meeting people, building mutually trusting relationships with them, and showing an active interest in who they are and what they do. Remember that listening is an essential part of the process and that when it comes to networking, there is no such thing as useless information. That being said, many people would consider the asking of germane and sincere questions to be a form of aggressive listening.
It is especially important that you come to recognize the networking potential of things that you do on a regular basis, whether it is socializing at your favorite hang-out spot or passing time on Facebook. Besides, passing time on Facebook is tremendous fun, and once you recognize the professional opportunities that that site has to offer, you will find yourself networking without even realizing you are doing it!
Another fun opportunity comes in the form of chats on Twitter, which gives people an opportunity to exchange information and share experiences. One example is #jobhuntchat, which takes place every Monday night at 10 p.m. eastern time. If you would rather observe than actively participate, you can always reach out to the respondents after the chat has concluded. Not only is this one way make the process of networking fun, but it also enables you to connect with the movers and shakers within your chosen industry, read their work, follow their activities, and see what their interests are.
It is of absolute importance to remember that networking is an ongoing process. Meeting somebody once does not quite make for an instant solid relationship. You will need to make the continuous effort to re-connect with them. This can take place in the form of sharing an article, YouTube video or other type of link that might interest them, sending them a quick note about an upcoming event that may intrigue them, or dropping a quick note to ask about activities or projects in which they may be involved. Again remember that listening is particularly important, mostly because without knowing what they’ve talked about it will be very difficult to follow up with them.
Above all, remember that patience is just as much of the essence in networking as listening. Networking involves building trust, and both require a considerable amount of time to come to full fruition, as do all investments in your future.