Kim Mohiuddin, president of both MovinOnUpRésumés.com and Authentic Executive Careers, offers networking tips for those intimidated by the idea of networking.
Let’s start with the definition of networking. What exactly does it mean?
The term networking itself can be intimidating. It sounds like something from The Matrix. It just means cultivating relationships. That looks different for everyone. One person might go to weekly business breakfasts while another might make connections on the tennis court.
Once you’ve made the connections, it’s important to cultivate the relationships. It’s better to have a small network of people who you can really keep in touch with and know well enough to help than to have a huge list of people you can’t remember. The people in your network should be able to advocate for you and vice versa.
Why is networking so important?
Networking is critical to the job seeker because most jobs are found through networking. Some studies report that 90 percent of jobs are won through networking. A hiring manager in this market is likely looking at hundreds of résumés for one open position. It’s overwhelming. They’re much more likely to pay attention to the person who’s been referred. It’s more of a known quantity for them and also a way to save time, to quickly get to a candidate who will likely be a match.
Can you give me some specific examples where networking has paid off?
One client was recently offered a chief financial officer position. He saw the open position and used LinkedIn (this is an amazing tool... every job seeker should be on it) to discover that a recruiter in his network was connected to another executive at the company. He got a personal introduction and the interview cycle was very short for a C-level executive.
Another client landed the position of logistics manager. He noticed that a local company was setting up manufacturing operations in Mexico. He had a great deal of experience with optimizing this kind of set-up. So he used LinkedIn to find a connection of a connection who worked in the company.
Most of my clients are executives, but this really works at any level. A customer service agent or store clerk who sees a “Coming Soon” sign for a new business can ask around for an introduction.
For some people, the very idea of talking to strangers makes them nervous. What do you say to them?
For those who are genuinely nervous about talking to new people, start in environments in which you’re comfortable. This could mean an online environment like LinkedIn where you don’t have to talk in real time (you can meet lots of new people by joining professional groups) or volunteering for something you’re passionate about. If you’re an introvert, a great resource is The Successful Introvert by Wendy Gelberg.
But even normally extroverted people can be thwarted by the false idea that they are supposed to “sell” themselves or ask for something from their network. That fear is allayed by remembering to come from a place of giving, of being interested in and ready to help the other. Ask about them. What are they most interested in? What gets them excited? How can you help them? It’s natural for the other person to offer their help and support as well, or to be open when you approach them later.
What are some baby steps one can take? Read more for the Baby Steps and More Advice