Need a job? You need to network. Have a job and want to keep it? You need to network. Networking should be a career-long endeavour that is just as important as performing your job in an excellent manner. Here's why. First, if we have learned anything over the past four years, it's that job security does not exist – if it ever did. One big economic downturn – or any number of other variables you cannot control – and you could find yourself sending out résumés and hoping for a call.
Once you get that job, if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. Career success is often found by moving up, and if you've been in the business world long enough, you know that the person most deserving of the promotion does not always get it. Sometimes, it's the "schmoozer."
If you have never been one to hob-nob, now might be a good time to learn that skill. If you're looking for a job, networking is the single best way to land a position. It's not an overnight fix, but it definitely beats sitting at your computer and sending out résumés that may or may not be seen by a human. How do you network? Here's how to get started.
What networking is, and isn't
If you think of networking as learning to be the local brown-noser or that cheesy person who sounds about as genuine as a TV game show host, you have the wrong idea. Networking is all about building genuine relationships. It is about taking an interest in somebody else, and it's about giving as much as you get.
Think about your own life. Can you tell when somebody genuinely wants to get to know you and when he or she just wants something? People will know your intentions, too, so if you've been against networking because you thought it involved being fake, that's the type of networking you should avoid because it doesn't work anyway.
Target your effort
You want your relationships to be genuine, but when you're looking to build a professional network, concentrate on people who are like you. If you're looking for a professional position in a Fortune 500 company, try to form relationships with those types of people.
Do not, however, count out people outside of your profession. Just because you are an information technology manager does not mean you should ignore the person who owns a dry cleaning business. How many professionals is he or she in contact with each day and how many stories does he or she hear about job openings?
Don't know where to meet people? Volunteer your time. Volunteer at your church, at charity events such as 5-kilometre runs, fundraisers, your child's school or other events. Become involved in local foundations and offer to speak to community groups on topics related to your expertise. Finally, don't wait to be asked. Offer your talents for the good of others. People will see your work ethic and the way you interact with other people. They'll then feel comfortable recommending you for a job in their circle of influence when one becomes available.
Don't try to virtual network
Once you meet somebody, locate him or her on Facebook or LinkedIn and e-mail or send a text message. Even in the 21st century, people like to get to know each other face to face. Sending out random e-mails trying to form relationships is a fruitless effort. Attend a party and have a friend introduce you to others. The old-fashioned way still works best.
Learn from that schmoozer
The schmoozer might be a little over the top for your taste, but you can learn from him or her. Notice that people who are good at talking to others know that using – and remembering – a person's name is vitally important.
They also know that asking the person about himself or herself is a great way to talk less and learn more. The schmoozer also knows to avoid controversial topics such as politics, religion and the goings-on of the local football team. It's all about being positive, confident and caring.
Once you make a connection with someone, follow up. Call, e-mail or find that person on social media sites and ask whether he or she would like to get together for coffee or lunch. Follow up with the intent of adding just as much value to that person's life as he or she would add to yours.
The bottom line
If you're still trying to find a job through an online portal, know that, on average, just about 12 per cent of hiring outside a company's walls comes from these online job portals. Furthermore, that percentage is spread across a number of different portals, meaning that very few jobs are filled through individual sites such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder. Instead, take a step back to the 20th century, get out into the world and meet people. Join groups, attend events, volunteer your time and do all of it because of your sincere desire to give as much as you get. It won't happen overnight, but meeting people is the best way to land your next job.