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  • Estelle Curry

Authentic Networking - Prepare to Flourish series

What do you think of when you hear the word networking? Does your mind conjure up the image of meeting strangers and exchanging business cards? If you Google it, you’ll find lots of articles declaring that networking is about professionals seeking to make connections, to further their business or job opportunities.

That’s absolutely right. But it’s more than that. My network is a group of respected individuals who I learn from, share ideas with, get advice from, give advice to and offer help. I connected with them because they and their work were interesting to me. My network is made up of people who I worked with, volunteered with, worked for, shared committees with, are part of groups I joined, and people I met randomly and discovered a shared interest. We all have an existing network, even if we didn’t intentionally cultivate it. I’m a firm believer that everyone you know is in your network. Be it your friends, family, co-workers, ex co-workers, people you do business with, etc. So, a cup of coffee with an old friend can be networking in its own right.

What are the benefits of networking?

  1. Other people you can share ideas with.

  2. The opportunity to develop your skills with people you trust.

  3. The prospect of finding a mentor to help guide you professionally.

  4. The chance to mentor others.

  5. The possibility of finding out about jobs before they hit the market.

  6. The chance to get job referrals.

  7. A rewarding relationship with like-minded individuals – camaraderie!

Maintaining and expanding your network

I believe your network is as strong as the effort you put into it. A bit like karma - whatever you put out into the world will come back to you. Authentic networking is a little like that. There are essentially two elements to networking that make it work. One is maintaining your existing network and the other is continuing to build on it.

You can maintain your network by simply making an effort to keep in touch with people. That means:

  1. Meeting up with them, where possible

  2. Sending an email.

  3. Picking up the phone.

  4. Liking their social media posts, particularly if they’ve gone to the effort to write a blog themselves 😉.

  5. Sharing their information if you find it useful.

  6. Referring their service or expertise to someone who is in need of it.

Expanding your network involves putting yourself out there a bit more and there are many networking events that you can join, even now, since a lot of them have moved online. Many industries have specific memberships you can join for a fee. However, if the thought of that puts shivers down your spine, you don’t have to join a networking event specifically, it could be a book reading group, a fitness class, or volunteering at a local charity. As long as you are meeting new people.

If you decide to join an event or group and strike up conversations, that’s great. However, you could go one step further and purposefully seek out people you would specifically like to connect with and introduce yourself. It might be someone you admire, a new colleague at work, or a friend-of-a-friend.

The goal is to meet new people and hopefully learn something. Having a genuine interest in who they are and what they do creates the foundations for authentic networks. Networking without the expectation of getting anything in return will build stronger, long-lasting relationships. In time, opportunities may arise out of those relationships, and you may be able to present opportunities too. However, the main benefit is collective wisdom and camaraderie.

The golden rules of authentic networking

  • Networking is a long game. Making a connection with someone today is not going to yield a favor, or a job offer or a business deal tomorrow. It’s more likely to happen if you build a sustainable relationship, and that could go on to last for years.

  • You will get out of your network what you put into it. The more you engage with your network, the more fruitful it will be.

  • Show gratitude. If someone helps you with something, you should of course thank them privately, but a public thank you on social media, or a like and share might be appreciated by them, depending on the circumstance

  • Keep in touch. I know it can be hard to keep in touch with everyone. But every so often, reach out, just to see how people are.

How networking can help you get a job

LinkedIn was set up for the specific reason of growing people’s networks on a professional level and that included the world of recruitment. According to LinkedIn, employee referrals are four times as likely to get a job offer. In addition to that, 82% of employers rated employee referrals above all other sources of candidates for ROI. It makes sense. As an employer, knowing Stacey from accounts is recommending a candidate, has more potential value than someone with no connection to the company. That’s why so many organizations have employee referral schemes.

LinkedIn has a very helpful tool; if you see a job that you’re interested in, they highlight anyone in your LinkedIn network who works there. Get in touch with them. Tell them you’re interested in the job and if they can refer you. If the company has an employee referral scheme, even better, that would mean your contact gets a few dollars in their pocket, upon you getting the job. LinkedIn also allows you to export all your contacts to a spreadsheet. You can sort them by name, by title or by company name.

But it’s not just professional networks that can help you get jobs. Think back to your social network I highlighted previously. If you were looking for a job, don’t you think your friends and family would be happy to help you out if they could? Reach out and let them know your situation, you’d be surprised who they might know.

So, yes professional networks are very valuable, and I would recommend them in regards to searching for a new job. However, don’t underestimate your social network in regard to helping your career. Just remember, keep meeting new people and stay in touch.

Join us for the accompanying podcast where we’ll be speaking with Laura Kasper, President, and CEO of Monarch Staffing. Laura is going to share some great tips and more practical ways to expand your network. You can listen to our accompanying podcast here.

What steps will you take this week to flourish?

Edited by Stephen Flanagan at Talent Attract.


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