Opportunities are all around you-the caveat is they’re attached to people. Therefore, ( stay with me) the people you spend time with determines the opportunities you’re made aware of.
Building the right relationships-networking-is critical for your job hunts ( You’ll be conducting a few throughout your career.) and your career trajectory. It’s not an overstatement to say, “relationships are everything.”
Those who take their career seriously are in constant networking mode. Networkers land the plumb jobs that aren’t advertised, they tap into where most job openings exist, the hidden job market. People who don’t network as part of their job search and career management activities either refuse to understand the value of networking or aren’t as serious about their job search/career as they claim they are.
You can either be networking ( creating and maintaining relationships), or you can be an outsider looking in; it’s entirely up to you. Ask yourself: Who’s more likely to be hired, a stranger the hiring manager doesn’t know, someone they’re familiar with, or a referral?
I don’t think in terms of “I’m networking.” Instead, I prepared my ego by telling myself, “I’m just meeting people. Whatever happens, happens.” No expectations. No agenda. Because of this mental preparation, meeting new people has become second nature for me.
When I meet someone for the first time, I don’t think, “What can I get?” Instead, I ask myself, “How can I help this person?” This mind flip is a game-changer. Now I’m not nervous, breaking into a cold sweat. I’m looking at how I can help my new acquaintance, such as introducing them to someone they may benefit from meeting. Unlike most people, I view networking as offering help rather than trying to obtain help. This reverse approach eliminates “networking anxiety.”
Focusing on how you can help a person is my first tip for making meeting new people less intimidating. My second tip, especially for those wishing to become comfortable with networking, is to practice networking with the right crowd. This tip is a spin on what I tell all job seekers, Search for your tribe!
Being personable is much easier when you feel comfortable, so start where you feel most at ease. Identify groups and communities with members whom you share a common interest with. Commonalities build relationships. Therefore, it makes sense to begin your networking efforts where there’s already a commonality.
Have you ever been to a classic car show or a sporting event and found yourself conversing with a stranger about the 1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1 you both are admiring or the triple play that just occurred? Commonality created the conversation. Whether it’s a classic car show, baseball game, rock concert, an art gallery opening, or a packed restaurant, you, along with everyone in attendance share a common interest.
Once you’re able to sustain a conversation beyond “That Stang’s a beauty!” and “What a great play!” you can start diversifying your networking opportunities, keeping in mind to focus on looking for commonalities.
“One should not focus on the differences between people but look for commonality and similarity.” — Theodore Levitt ( German-American economist, 1925–2006)
Television host Larry King once said, “I never learned anything while I was talking.” How will you know what you can do for someone if you’re the one doing all the talking? You can’t. Ask questions and be genuinely curious. ( e.g., How long have you been with your company? What’s the culture like? What trends do you see emerging in the next few years? How has the pandemic challenged your business?) Then ask more questions to gather more information. This is how you build relationships-leveraging the fact people love talking about themselves.
Showing interest is a massive gesture to anyone you meet.
There are endless opportunities to interact with people. A few months back, during an elevator ride, I learned my neighbour on my condo floor worked was the HR Director for a large publishing house. Good to know! Every time you talk to someone, you learn something new. Everyone you meet is someone you can help and someone who could be of assistance to you in some way, if not today, possibly down the road. As I mentioned earlier, meeting new people is easier when you look to give instead of taking.
I’m sure you’ve heard, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” The second part of this statement is especially true. When it comes to opening doors, it’s often “who you know.”
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send Nick your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.