I’ve noticed that everyone has a pre-conceived idea of what networking means. Some envision the impersonal exchange of business cards at networking events or job fairs; other envision meeting the man of their dreams in some breezy conference center over a forced conversation with cheap wine and cheese cubes. Considering how awkward and uncomfortable that sounds, it’s no wonder so many people opt to bypass networking and turn instead to less social forms of career development. These individuals may feel more at ease sending resumes and applications off into the black hole of the internet, but what’s the likelihood of a dream job materializing from those efforts?
Networking cannot be ignored or dismissed. Nor should it be – networking happens everywhere, all the time. If you want the job, you need to come to terms with networking as a way of life. Once you do, you’ll start to see it for what it is – essential to your security when it comes to jobs, income, and career path.
When I first started my career coaching practice, I filled my business to the point of having a wait list in just three months. This was before I had a website, a business card, an office or even an updated Linkedin profile… My success was largely due to the fact that every single day, I woke up ready for my next conversation.
Networking is truly about keeping your mind and heart open to engaging with other people. That mindset helped me secure three clients while I was waiting in line at Chili’s. So for those of you who tell me you don’t have any contacts, my response is this: go make some.
It happens all the time.
A girlfriend of mine worked in Congress and, for financial reasons, was forced to cancel her fancy gym membership. She started working out at the much more downscale fitness center in her office building, and during those early mornings, she ended up getting to know people who worked for Congressmen whose political ideologies were so different from that of her own boss – people she would never have had any reason or opportunity to get to know. However, in the safety of the gym, away from the partisan bickering of the House chamber, unlikely friendships were formed. When she left Capitol Hill a few months later, it was for a lobbying job she got through one of her gym friends.
The bottom line: never underestimate the power of engaging in a conversation, even if previous experience tells you there’s no point. Trust that who you’re talking to in each moment is someone you’re meant to be having a conversation with. Get to know them with an open heart, and know that gratitude and generosity comes back tenfold. If you see no way in which they can help you, find a way to help them. Remember: all relationships start with a conversation. So start meeting more people, getting to know them, and look for ways to help each other out in your careers.
You will soon realize what I’ve learned – when you spend a lot of your time networking, you’ll have to spend very little of your time applying for jobs.