Networking: You're Not Selling Yourself, You're Selling Your Value
Networking for most people is awkward, fake and painful. They have images in their mind of "schmoozing" with other people, faking a smile, passing out their business cards and never hearing from anyone again. Sound familiar?
This is not true networking. Networking is about building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships in an authentic way. Effective networking is not focused on getting a job, which is where many people go wrong in their approach. Immediately expecting something from the other person will weaken the relationship from the start. Focus on gathering information that can improve your approach and increase your connections and visibility.
When you are networking, it's a good idea to share some of your target companies with the other person to see if they have any connections at that company. Even if they don't, they may be able to recommend other companies to add to your list.
It should not feel like you are "using" people, because good relationships are a two-way street. Ask how you can help each contact. Start with those who already know and trust you and then look at making new connections outside of your current network. Your warm leads are always your strongest ones and the mostly likely to produce a job lead. Embrace networking as a process and avoid relying on any one person to be the answer to your job search. You may have to establish a fair amount of new connections before you find the one that will be successful.
Another objection to networking is that people aren't comfortable "selling" themselves. What you are really selling though is your value and your talents. If you believe strongly in what you have to offer, it will come through in an authentic way and it won't feel like selling. Also remember, selling is not a bad thing. Selling simply means that you have something of value to offer the other person. It's simply an exchange.
Are you unsure of how to start the conversation? Here are a few good questions to get you started. Modify them as needed, based upon your situation and how well you know the person with whom you are connecting.
- "What do you like about working for WYZ Company?"
- "What trends do you see in this field?"
- "What are the biggest challenges for you in your role?"
- "Are there other companies I should be looking at? Any I should stay away from?"
- "What advice do you have for me as I get into this line of work?"
- "Is there anyone in your network that you would recommend I connect with?"
- "What could I do to support you?"
Use these questions in your next networking opportunity, whether in person or on LinkedIn. Prior to your conversations, get very clear on what your value is and who you’d like to work for so that you have a great way to start each conversation.