Are you a natural networker? No? Well, you are not alone! As an introvert, I can appreciate your hesitation. It took me awhile to get comfortable with networking and yet it was absolutely essential when I started my coaching practice. And it is absolutely necessary in today’s job market.
Let me reframe what networking is and is not. Networking is about building a relationship and sharing information. How many times have friends or family members asked you if you know a good mechanic, a dentist who takes your insurance, or a great hairdresser? Those are all examples of networking. There is nothing inappropriate about those inquiries. Most of us welcome the opportunity to share our business connections. And yet, when we are exploring job opportunities, exchanging similar kinds of information suddenly becomes uncomfortable.
Networking is not about using people or asking for a job.
Networking is about developing relationships, exchanging meaningful information, and getting advice or suggestions that help us make better career decisions.
In the last year, COVID-19 has severely limited our ability to connect with others face-to-face. No more in-person industry conferences, professional meetings or social gatherings. Suddenly video conferences became the norm, and those events are not always conducive to networking. Does that mean, woohoo, no more pressure to network? Not a chance! But it does give introverts the opportunity to connect with others in a less extroverted way, using LinkedIn.
Begin by finding and connecting with those you already know. Keep in mind that you should neither rule a possible connection out because she is in the same field, nor should you rule her out because she isn’t. The person you struck up a conversation with on the airplane last year has an entirely different social network and may have more relevant connections than your best friend. You just never know, sometimes the weak connections are the most fertile!
If you are already connected on LinkedIn, simply message your business associate through the site or email them. “ Hi Marty, it’s been a while since we spoke. Congratulations on the promotion! I would love to catch up. Things have changed for me at work. As someone who has successfully made the leap into a new industry, I would love to get your advice about how best to position myself to do the same.”
If you have identified someone you don’t know who shares your background, experience or connections, invite her to connect. Use InMail to message her (if you have a paid LinkedIn account) or join the same LinkedIn group and message her through the group function. “Hi Josie, I found you on LinkedIn and noticed that we share a similar background, history with ABC company or attended the same university. We are both members of the ITT Engineers group and I would like to connect.” Once connected you can reach out for information or advice about your job search. “Hi Josie, I am putting together a presentation for an interview at Oracle next week and would appreciate any advice you provide about how best to position myself. Would you have five minutes to talk this week?” Keep your meeting short, don’t be a time hog.
When networking always have as your primary goal, making a friend, or building a relationship. Look for ways to give back, whether by recommending a book, suggesting a restaurant or making a business connection. Check in periodically, especially when you are not job hunting.
©2021 Mary Jeanne Vincent. All rights reserved.