by Melany Hallam
Have you ever got a job through your favourite uncle or through the friend of a friend? Finding work this way sure is a lot easier than applying to an online ad or cold calling a potential employer, isn’t it? Everyone has friends and relatives who want to help them out when it comes to job search–that’s how people work. Put simply, if another person likes you, they are more apt to help you than not help you. There’s another name for this process, it’s called “networking”.
Networking is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many, including me. I’ve always found it easier to help friends connect with possible employers or work on a project than to help myself do the same thing. This isn’t an uncommon problem–it can be tough to put yourself out there. To me, it can feel very forced and inauthentic.
But I’ve discovered quite recently that my idea of the networking process as an awkward work/social event where you shamelessly promote yourself is dead wrong. I’m already networking and I didn’t even realize it. How so? Well, right now, my two largest clients are organizations I was introduced to through friends. I wouldn’t even have been aware of the opportunities on my own. Neither of these clients advertised for a contractor, it was all done through personal connections.
When you think about it, it only makes sense. Why would a company want to go through the process of advertising, selecting candidates, interviewing and decision-making if there’s an easier alternative? In fact, by networking, you’re doing a potential employer a favour by saving them the time and money involved in advertising a position!
Networking as a process can be made much less scary if you change the way you think about it. Don’t view it as asking for a job. Think of it as a research project or just a way of finding people who are interested in the same things you are. Networking is a two-way street.
There are lots of ways of getting over your fear and loathing of the whole networking concept. Here are some good tips from a Harvard Business Review article on changing your thinking:
- Focus on learning. Instead of attending a job fair or work event with the attitude that it’s a necessary evil, keep an open mind. Who knows? You may learn something new and helpful to your job search, learn of a better way to do your existing work or narrow your job search focus on something which really interests you. It’s not necessary to be constantly promoting yourself. In fact, it’s often best to keep the promotion part of the conversation to just a very brief summary of your background and general career goals.
- Identify common interests. You may find that the person working the information booth at a job fair has the same non-work interests as you. Maybe you’re both crazy into mountain biking or skiing. Or you’re both rabid fans of the same music. Interests don’t have to be work-related to help you build a good working relationship. Think about it for a minute. Who would you want to help find a job or work with? Someone you really connected with over your shared interests or someone who couldn’t meet your eyes during a short and awkward conversation?
- Think about what you can give. Networking isn’t all about getting what you want. It’s also about helping others, even if it’s just by listening to the other person’s story. Too often in a conversation, people spend their time thinking about what to say next instead of really listening. Who knows what you might learn, or how you might connect to that person in a more authentic way? There may be no immediate benefit to you in terms of work, but it could lead to an opportunity for you (or for the other person) in the future.
- Find a higher purpose. Instead of focusing on what a networking event can do for you personally, consider it an opportunity to help your clients or to raise the profile of your company. It could even be a way of promoting a cause that you believe in. In effect, you’d be working on behalf of someone else rather than yourself, and that can often be much easier to do.
On Tuesday, April 4 (11:30 am–1:30 pm), Career Link is hosting a free job fair at the Powell River Recreation Complex (upper level). Practice changing your thinking about networking, and meet potential employers at this informal event! For more info, contact Peter Harvey at 604.485.7958 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested? Here are some more handy tips to prepare yourself for Job Fair 2017: