One of the most frequent pieces of advice when searching for a new role is to network. However, networking can be intimidating. Even more, it can also be very misunderstood.
It’s common to think of networking as a way to meet people in higher positions to help you find a new job or gain a promotion, but that’s not the only way to look at it. In reality, networking can be done by anyone at any level, with anyone at any level. The key to effective networking is realizing that everyone in the room plays an important part in making connections. No matter their role, meeting someone new is a great way to improve skills that will contribute to success in your work, both current and future.
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We asked our Employment Team to debunk some common misconceptions about networking. Below, they reveal some of their tips for making networking exciting, enriching, and worthwhile.
Myth #1: You should only be networking when you are looking for a job.
In fact, doing this might actually do you a disservice. If you’re looking for a job, it’s likely that you’re desperate to connect with someone who can help you. Even if you don’t say it loud, this can be more obvious than you think. Employers and managers are well aware of people looking to use them just for a promotion. Because of this, they'll be more likely to give you the cold shoulder if they feel taken advantage of.
EXPERT TIP: Try to practice some act of networking at least once a week. Whether it’s within your own organization or outside of your job, get connected with someone you don’t know and make an effort to stay in touch. You never know when your relationship with them, either professional or personal, might come in handy.
Myth #2: You should keep networking a secret from your employer.
Contrary to popular belief, doing some networking doesn’t mean that you’re looking to jump ship. Networking can be done to improve relationships to help you in your current role, build new ones to expand your reach and strengthen your communication skills to increase your value. Your networking is in your and your employer’s best interest and can lead to new opportunities for each of you.
EXPERT TIP: Chat with your employer about networking. Feel free to ask them if they have contacts that could help you further develop your skills or interests.
Myth #3: Networking is strictly business focused.
The way to one’s heart isn’t strictly through business talk. Having a networking chat that’s focused solely on professional jargon can feel draining, transactional, and impersonal.
EXPERT TIP: If you’re looking to make a lasting connection with someone, be sure to chat about topics outside of work that showcase your values, interests, and hobbies, while keeping the conversation professional. If you’re not compatible on a personal level, it’s unlikely that you’ll have much luck when it comes to talking business.
Myth #4: Extroverts are the best networkers.
Although many extroverts might be good networkers, that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who can do it effectively. Networking isn’t about talking the most or being the loudest in a group. Networking requires creating meaningful connections through a variety of means, including actions, emails, phone calls, and more.
EXPERT TIP: Don’t be intimidated by loud-talkers and social butterflies. A well-written email can set the stage for an enriching in-person meeting and break the ice if you’re experiencing nerves.
Myth #5: It’s weird to ask for a business card.
Going paperless isn’t the only way to network. You run the risk of forgetting to make a connection on LinkedIn, losing someone’s email address, or being left without a reminder of their job title. While technology is useful for keeping in touch, it’s not the only way to stay connected.
EXPERT TIP: Even if it's not a business card, don’t be shy to ask the person you’re networking with for their email address or LinkedIn profile, provided that you keep it easily accessible. By doing so, you show an intention to follow up and cement the fact that your networking experience was genuine and future-focused.
The summer months are a fantastic time to network and meet new people. WoodGreen’s employment services are proud to assist youth, families and individuals with finding employment that fulfills their interests through a variety of programs that cover networking, resume tips, job hunting, and more. Learn more about our programming here.