How to Be Intentional When Networking

How to Be Intentional When Networking

How many of you continue to network once you have landed your supposedly “dream” job?  I would be interested in your answers.  Honestly, I cannot ever remember networking for any length of time.  Networking was not taught in my generation.  Once you were fortunate enough to get a job – you stayed there until your retired or died unfortunately.  Perhaps we were networking, but did not know it at the time, and the word was not used like it is in today’s society.  

The Art of Networking

I can vividly remember one of my close friends from my last full-time position stating that she needed to network more.  Most of her friends’ network, and she felt she had become complacent in her current role.  At the time, I couldn’t understand why she needed to network since she had a good-paying job.  She even mentioned that she needed to check out LinkedIn to see what current roles were available in her field.  She felt as though she had become too lax – her words – not mine.  

Again, I was saying to myself “Why network?” “Why bother with LinkedIn?” “What is she concerned about since she makes descent money?”  I guess I never thought about “networking” since it usually occurred after work, at a bar, with people that I didn’t always work with as part of my job.  Therefore, I did not see the benefit of networking with people that I’ve been all day, and I was ready to go home!  

There is networking…….and there is networking!  There is a difference between the two.  There should be a purpose in networking – not just to get together with co-workers or others just to eat and drink.  I think one should have an agenda when they get together to network, or else it could be a waste of time in my opinion.  When you set out to network, you should definitely have an objective, who you want to network with, and the outcome you hope to implement.  

Foster Good Relationship Prior to Networking

Time is precious and you don’t want to waste your time or the other person’s time.  I also think it’s important to foster good relationships prior to networking.  For instance, do not wait to contact someone when you need a job.  Call, text, or email just because.  Also, when you meet someone – put their contact information in your phone – back in the day it was the rolodex.  Add something unique about the individual(s) so you will remember when and where you met.  Basically, keep in touch with the person once you’ve made contact.

Another important element of networking is to make sure that you have business cards to hand out to potential employers/employees.  Make sure that the business cards speak to the nature of who you are and where you intend to go in the future.  

I can hear some of you saying right now, but “I don’t know how to network,” “Where do I start,” “I’m not a people person,” and “I’m shy.”  All of us have been some or more of those things, but we can overcome them with practice and help from family and friends.  

Start with Family and Friends

In fact, the best way to overcome the above-mentioned fears is to connect with family and friends.  They can be your best ally during this time.  Take time to practice with them and ask for honest feedback.  Join Toastmasters where you can hone in on speaking skills while connecting with new individuals.  Basically, you need to learn how to listen to the other person talk about themselves, and you need to toot your own horn from time-to-time.  You definitely want to have a support system that you can count on.  

If you are like me, I don’t like talking about myself, but I am good at asking questions.  Some people love talking about themselves, and if you are fortunate enough to find someone like that it might be good for you. 

 In this case – just keep in mind your agenda – so you might have to force yourself to speak even if you are uncomfortable in the situation.  The other person will not know what you want/need if you are not able to articulate it to them.  That’s why it’s necessary to practice with someone that will help you overcome your ability to network to get your needs met while listening to the other person.  

The Two-Way Street of Networking

In my opinion networking is a two-way street – you give a little – and you take a little.  In the end it should be a win-win for both parties.  

In case you are wondering where to network I would suggest starting with your college or university.  Some organizations have network groups for various groups of people.  They usually have networking events where you will get the opportunity to meet new friends and build rapport with potential employers.  I wish I would have been taught the importance of networking when I was younger, but it was not relevant as it is today.  

If you are a teacher, start a network of teachers from your school and build from there.  Just recently, a group of seven African American mayors started a group to support each other.  What an excellent idea and a way for them to stay connected and support each other.  Networking is big in today’s society.  It is definitely a way to stay connected and in touch with others.  Like minds like to be together!  

Be Intentional When Networking

When it comes to networking, I think we have to be intentional.  For example, make a date with networking by reaching out to someone on LinkedIn in your network that you’ve never met.  Set a networking date by picking a place and time to meet “just because” don’t wait until you are out of work to frantically make calls and requests.

The person that you are meeting with may not be your connection to your dream job, but they might be able to connect you with someone in their circle who could possibly be your next employer.  Never count anyone out when it comes to networking.  Just ensure that you have an agenda when the opportunity presents itself for you to network.  

One important question to ask yourself is why are you networking.  Are you networking because someone suggested it to you?  That might be alright for starters, but at some point, you need to decide for yourself why are you networking and what is your ultimate goal in the end.  

Have a Plan

If you don’t have a plan for networking, you are going to spend the majority of time listening to someone else’ plan that will not be beneficial to you in the end.  As I mentioned earlier, I don’t like talking about myself, but good at asking questions.  If you are shy about networking, use whatever you are good at to your advantage.  If you are a good listener, use that to your advantage, but make sure that you let the other person know what you need during the conversation.  

Another factor to consider is to force yourself to meet people that are not in your league. For instance, I am not naturally an animal lover, but when I am out walking on the trail – when I speak with the people I pass – I make it a point to inquire about their dog, ask the name of the dog, and about their personality.  I’ve since gotten to know Buddy, Mackie, Riley, Jazzy, and two dogs that are brothers.  I’m networking and I never know when I might run into those same individuals in a job interview.  Networking will definitely get us out of our comfort zone if we are willing to take a chance.  

Care about People

At the end of day people want to know that you care for and about them.  If you can relay that during your time of networking, then you have mastered the art of networking.  Networking is not just about you getting what you want, but ensuring that the other person know that you genuinely care about them as an individual.  No one wants to be associated with someone that only contacts them when they need something.  

The Art of Networking can be mastered with practice and patience.  People are not born with networking skills; they can be learned with time.  Furthermore, networking is another way to drum up your business or potential future business.  

Networking is another way to build relationships and can be a good source for future job security.  Consider networking as another form of your favorite cake or cookie.  Until recently, I never saw the importance of networking until I began to look for full-time employment.  Networking can be considered another form of life/health insurance.  You never know when you might need it, but eventually you will at some point in your life regardless of circumstances.  

Essential Networking Skills

According to the Jordan Harbinger Podcast:  the following skills for networking are essential:

  1. Dig wells before you are thirsty. 
  2. Create and maintain relationships.
  3. Raise your hands for good karma.
  4. Do not keep score for good deeds done for others.
  5. Create opportunities for other people in your network.
  6. Do not only help people that can help you.
  7. Connect two people together that can help each other.
  8. Give without expecting anything in return.

Jordan’s moto is:  ABG = Always Be Generous and/or Giving.

As a matter of fact, a friend of mine introduced me to someone in the field that I am interested in entering.  After the introduction – we got together and she was able to assist me with relevant changes to my resume.  Again, this friend created good karma, I added someone new to my network, and she is aware that I am looking for full-time employment.  

Network and Create Opportunities

In case you are still wondering if you have a knack for networking – wonder no more.  Just be more intentional about networking and creating opportunities not only for yourself, but for others.  You have no idea of the outcome until you embark on the experience.  What is the worst that can happen?  You can meet a new friend, take a journey you never thought was possible, and potentially learn a new skill.  

Today, take time to create the space in your life to network with intention and see where you land.  You might be surprised of the outcome.