That’s because some people perceive networking as “selling” and don’t feel comfortable selling themselves.
If that sounds like you, it might help to start looking at networking in a different way.
There are different definitions of networking, but a particularly useful definition is the one given in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: “To interact or engage in informal communication with others for mutual assistance or support.”
As you can see from this definition, two keys to networking are that it is “informal” and it is “mutual.” This type of networking includes meeting and interacting with people informally at social and business events.
It’s a great way to make the connections that can help you change careers or land the job you want.
When a business owner needs a new employee, they will typically ask friends, business associates, and current employees if they know anyone who might be suitable for the job. If any of those people happen to know you are seeking that type of job, an employer may contact you and invite you to apply.
That’s how I landed a great job years ago, and my experience is not unusual.
Studies have consistently found this is how many positions are filled, including more than half of management and professional positions. The classic study in this area was done in 1974 by sociologist Mark Granovetter, now with Stanford University.
Granovetter’s study, titled Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers, reported that 56% of survey participants found their job through a personal contact. While it was a small survey sample of 282 men in one community, similar results have been found in follow-up studies.
For example, a Global Career Transition Study by DBM of almost 7,000 clients who changed careers that year reported that 54% worldwide found re-employment through networking. According to the report, Networking is still the number one way job seekers, worldwide, are finding new employment opportunities.
Likewise, the U.S. Department of Labors Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that over half of all employees get their jobs through networking.
What is perhaps most significant for job-seekers is the fact that most positions obtained through word of mouth are found through acquaintances instead of through friends or family.
Granovetter’s study found that 84% of the respondents who found a job through personal contacts learned about the opportunity from someone they saw only occasionally or rarely. That’s because you likely know many of the same people that your close friends know, whereas acquaintances are likely to know other people and hear about different opportunities.
So don’t show up only at family gatherings. Make sure you attend all events you’re invited to, whether they’re thrown by friends, neighbours, or companies you do business with.
If you’re not currently employed, you can have some personal business cards made up at a local printer or online at a site such as Vistaprint.com, JukeboxPrint.com, or Moo.com. Your name, phone number, email and web address on a professionally designed card can create a positive impression and make it easy for people to pass on information about you.
Then expand your network of contacts by attending social and business events that give you an opportunity to meet and interact with new people. There are many organizations offering these types of events, many of which I have mentioned in past columns. Here’s a selection of groups to get you started (if you know of another group that should be on the next list I publish, please let me know):
- Meetups: Meet people working in an industry you want to break into at one of the Work and Career meetups offered regularly. Visit www.meetup.com to find local events.
- Toastmasters: Toastmasters offers meetings where you have the opportunity to develop public speaking skills, develop confidence, and meet new people. To find local clubs go to www.toastmasters.org and click the «Find» button for a list of locations near you.
- Business Network International: If you start your own business, this group can help you get word of mouth referrals. Search for local groups at www.bnicanada.ca
Membership fees range from nothing for Meetups to hundreds of dollars for some industry organizations. However, even those with high annual membership fees will often let you try them out by attending one or more events for just the cost of the event.
You may enjoy the experience so much you decide not only to join, but to get involved as an event organizer, helping others build their own networks while you build yours.
Tag Goulet is co-founder of FabJob.com and Academic Director of the International Association of Professions Career College which offers professional certificates for dream careers at www.iapcollege.com.