I run a job strategy and networking group for young Jewish professionals. At our last meeting, I found out that most of the group had made New Year’s Resolutions to do more networking. It is a great idea, as over half of jobs out there seem to be coming through networking. Most studies show that less than 10% come from sitting at home and applying online. But hold on employed readers, this article is still relevant for you. Any accomplished professional will tell you it is a good idea to keep your network going while you still have a job, because quite frankly you never know. Happy New Year Netw-OY-rkers! This is networking 101.
The simplest way to understand networking is to look at the word. “net” and “work.” Put them together and you get “network.” It can be a noun, as in, “I have a large network.” It can be verb, as in, “I am going out to network this evening.” It can also be a descriptor, as in, “I am going to a networking event.” No matter how you use the word, it all comes back to the same thing. Throwing out a net and getting it to work for you, and at least one other person. There are three components to knowing you are having success: you have a net (a way to capture more contacts), the net works (meaningful connections are taking place), and there is mutual benefit for you and the person(s) you catch in this net.
It seems simple on paper, but for many of us networking is pretty scary. It makes our stomachs churn when we picture a room full of 500 people in suits toting business cards and reciting elevator pitches. That is just one type of networking— but it is not the only type. If your stomach does a somersault every time someone mentions the words “networking event,” my advice, don’t always force yourself to go. It is perfectly practical, productive, and acceptable to build a network in a lower key manor. Maybe you just e-mail a few friends and family members and ask them who they might know in a particular field of interest to you. Most of us already have family and social networks. Yes, if you have friends and family, you already have a network, so relax.
Why should you network professionally though? What’s the point, you have a job, you show up daily, and you get paid. What more do you need? Maybe you don’t have a job now and everyone is telling you to network. And you wonder, “why do I waste time with this? I should be spending my energy applying for jobs, working on my resume, etc.” Before you go completely negative on networking though, consider this: Why do you have a social network? In other words, why do you have friends? It is because when Saturday night rolls around, and you want to go out to dinner, it’s nice to have company. It is because when it is your birthday and you have a party, it’s nice having someone there to sing to you.
Are you catching on? A professional network is great when you are at work and you have a project to complete and you need some help. Sure you can go to your boss. Would it not be more impressive to reach out to your network and see who might have some advice, a connection, or a tool that could help you finish the job easier and faster? These connections will also come in handy if find yourself on the job search again. These are the people who connect you to people who connect you to other people who maybe e looking for someone with exactly your skill set.
Are you still not convinced? Think about how you got your last 3 jobs. Now ask 3 friends how they got their last 3 jobs. I’ll bet you my job, that the majority of the time, networking had something to do with landing those jobs. If 60% of jobs are filled before they even get posted online, how do you think most people are finding out about them? Networking is the key.
How does one get started with this networking business?
1. Throw out the net and capture new contacts.
2. Make the net work by asking for a 1 on 1, face to face meeting with these contacts.
3. Make a profit from the catch by treating the meeting like an informational interview.
4. Maintain the network by keeping up with those already in your network and going to places that you enjoy to continue to meet more. A good networker finds a place they love to be already, such as professional association, a social club, or even a synagogue. As new members join these groups the network automatically grows.
For more details on networking visit www.ParnossahWorksChicago.org and www.JUF.org for more info on networking and networking events in the Jewish community. For contacts outside the Jewish World there are thousands of associations, chambers of commerce and groups that are having events and meetings every day. Resolve to make 2010 the year of your network.