Take a minute to think about the successful people you know and what makes them successful. Chances are they are masterful networkers and they did this by finding their own way to build mutually beneficial relationships. Employed or unemployed, introverted or extroverted, these are some of the most popular excuses people make for not networking. Your challenge is to get out of your house or your cube and meet people.
1. I don't know anyone. Yes you do! You know past co-workers, friends, family, and service providers. You know lots of people but you are uncomfortable reaching out to them. Overcome this by believing you are merely seeking knowledge.
2. I don't have time. If you're employed, making time to network will cut into your schedule. When you think about how you make time to do other things, such as going to the movies or working out, there is always enough time for things that are important to you. Are you saying your career isn't important? Or are you saying you don't understand how networking will help your career?
3. I have run out of people to talk to. If this is true, sorry to say, you aren't networking correctly. Each meeting should result in the person providing you with additional names of people they know OR you should ask them to recommend people you should speak with. People want to help, however, you have clearly spell out the kind of help you need.
4. I don't have money to network. As a job seeker and as an employee, add this into your budget. Set money aside for coffee, gas, and one paid professional association group meeting per month. Take it from your entertainment/dining-out budget. Be smart about how and when you schedule your meetings.
5. I have all the resources I need around me at work. This is shortsighted. No one has all the resources and information they need. Meeting people from different companies and different industries expands your thinking and the way you look at problems and develop solutions.
6. I am too shy. This is a wonderful opportunity to develop your extroverted side. Is it uncomfortable? Yes, but this really isn't an excuse. Learn and watch others who do it with ease. Tag along with people who enjoy meeting new people and they will gladly introduce you to the people they know at events. It is what they love to do. By the way, introverts make excellent listeners.
7. People keep turning me down for informational interviews. First, don't call them informational interviews. This is not an interview, it is a meeting. "Interview" reeks of "hire me, I am looking for a job." It may seem just a matter of semantics, but if it looks and smells like a pig, it IS a pig. Rewrite the script you use to for these meetings. Be sure you are asking for help and advice. There are very few people who will turn down an invitation for help. Is it your wording? Is it your delivery? Ask a friend to critique your invitation.
8. I don't know what to talk about. You simply need to ask questions about the other person. Focus on learning about them and what they do. Here are some broad questions that might help.
- How's your week going?
- How's business?
- What led you to set up your own business/be an accountant, etc?
- What's the best part of your job?
Informational Meeting Questions
- How is business?
- How have changes in technology most affected your business?
- How has your company grown or changed in the last couple of years?
- What are the qualities of people who perform best in this business?
- How do you think most of the employees would describe this workplace?
- What trends do you see in the future that will affect your organization and industry?
- What did you think of the speaker?
- What prompted you to come here today?
- What's been the best session for you?
- Who have you enjoyed meeting so far?
9. It hasn't worked for me in the past. How long did you try it for? Were you expecting immediate results—perhaps a job offer on the spot? This process takes time. Trust builds over time. This is why it is so important to continue these healthy networking practices even after you get a job. You can't predict where the next lead will come from. Don't pre-judge people or opportunities to connect. Follow up on EVERY SINGLE ONE. You never know.
10. Insert your excuse here. The challenge for many of us is to step outside our comfort zone and do new things. You can learn to be more comfortable networking. It helps to understand that networking is building relationships with people and sharing information. Don't get discouraged.
Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.