The 3 rules of smart networkingBy Joan Lloyd
How do you network if you don't have the personality of Jim Carey, or the reputation of Steven Speilberg? It's not as complicatedâ€”or smarmyâ€”as you may think. And it's an essential skill to learn, if you are going to leverage your talents in the work world.
"I don't want to seem manipulative," my colleague confided. "Networking is so difficult for me because it seems so fake and forced. Besides, why should a perfect stranger want to talk to me?"
You've heard the statistics: More people get a job through networking than by any other means. And, "who you know" plays a big role when looking for opportunities to get ahead.
If you are more like Tom Hanksâ€”talented but modestâ€”here's how to get started:
First, be selfless. Yes, I know it sounds counter intuitive but it is a central characteristic of a master networker. If you are willing to extend yourself to people you meet, you will begin to develop a vibrant fan club of people who have been helped by you and who will help you in return. The key is to help them willingly, without strings attached. In other words, don't help others just so they will feel obligated to return the favor. But if and when the day comes that you need a favor, you won't have to go searchingâ€¦or begging for help.
How do you "extend yourself?" Ask people questions and listen to what they need. Offer to review their resumÃ© if they are job hunting, make a referral to a friend, give someone an informative article that pertains to their field, offer advice if asked, any small thing that would help the other person.
If you are job hunting, networking becomes critical. Start by making a list of people you know. They don't have to be in your industry. Include friends, family, former colleagues, neighbors, lawyerâ€”anyone who knows you well enough to refer you to someone else.
Now, call these folks and tell them what you are looking for. But follow the 3 Rules of Smart Networking.
Ask for something specific and small.
Give them details about what you need, so they understand how to help you. Assure them that you will not abuse their goodwill.
For example, "I am interested in changing jobs. I've had some great results in this job as a project leader but I'm interested in expanding my responsibilities to a supervisor position. Do you know anyone in my fieldâ€”Marketingâ€”who might be willing to critique my resumÃ© and give me some job hunting advice? I promise I won't be pushy or ask them for a job."
When someone refers you to their friend or colleague, they are putting their own reputation on the line, so follow the same 3 Rules of Networking. Rather than a cold call you are now able to make a warm call, which opens the door more easily. The person you are calling will probably be willing to help you, as a favor to their colleague. It's likely they don't feel putout or resentful, since they could need assistance some day and understand the golden rule of reciprocity.
Be considerate of the person's time. Be on time, take notes, follow through, send a thank you letter and keep them informed if they ask you to let them know how their advice panned out. If you asked for a brief meeting or phone conversation, keep your promise.