Why does the word “networking” conjure up such negative thoughts for people? Many of my clients and the students I have worked with seem to believe it is only for “professionals” dressed in suits, playing golf, and smoking cigars. That image is not MY image of networking. So I asked myself, “What do I need to do to help explain networking to my clients?”
I searched LinkedIn for articles on networking and I found 214,500+ articles and the majority are focused on “What NOT to do”. Whew! Where to start? So I decided to post a discussion in the NCDA LinkedIn group and to email some key people in my network. I picked up many great ideas as well as confirmation on a number of my thoughts on this topic.
Personally, I like to describe networking as ‘relationship building’. This implies it is a two-way relationship and requires giving and receiving. As Martin Kral stated, it’s about “being connected” and people want to hire/help others who have been “sent to them” from mutual connections. I agree it is much safer / easier to help someone that was referred to me rather than a cold call. I have to believe my network will refer quality people to me, which helps me in my busy day.
Networking is often referred to as a ‘connection’. But ‘connection’ does not feel ‘warm’ or ‘authentic’ enough for me. Connections are just that… people I am connected with. My professional network has a much stronger emotional feel to it and one that I hope is more mutually beneficial. i.e. Can I help a person in my network? as much as, can people in my network help me? Think about treating everyone in your network well because “what goes around comes around” (Thanks, Martin Kral). I agree with Martin and believe in karma. Sometimes you need to do good things, even when nobody’s watching because karma will reward you later…sometime. Remember, this trait of helping others is what employers are looking for in people too.
Part of the problem with a term like ‘networking’ is that it can be defined in different ways depending upon how it is being used. “In business, networking tends to be a broader term for making contacts. So we do need to let students know that we’re defining networking in a job hunting environment.” (Thanks, Ron Auerbach for that comment). I heard Don Asher suggest that we simply tell our students “networking is simply talking to people.” The key point here is that we need to define what networking is to our clients so they can understand the value of it in the context of their career development.
Another key point made in our discussion was from Bruce Biskin who pointed out that it is about “extending your relationships by having your connections introduce you, directly or indirectly, to additional people with whom to connect.” I agree with Bruce and I often talk with my clients/students about how your network is comprised of much more than your first connections. The people who can REALLY help you are often your network’s network. There has been quite a bit of research on this over the years and I can honestly say I believe it.
Example: When someone in my network comes to me about finding a new job, I never hire them. What I hope is that someone in my network can help this person. LinkedIn calls this your 2nd connection. It is the EXTENSION of my contacts that can really help people.
Finally, my good internet friend Bob McIntosh shared his definition here: “Networking is about connecting with people to form relationships that are beneficial to everyone involved. It’s also about expanding one’s opportunities by connecting with everyone they come into contact with.”
My two takeaways from all these comments and my experience are that:
(1) ‘Networking’ is a two-way relationship that benefits BOTH people in some way.
*Remember that when you are reaching out to make those connections.
(2) Make sure you define what networking is with your clients and check in that they understand it in the context of their career development.
What are your thoughts on this?
How do you describe networking to your clients?
Note: I have to thank Jimmy Fallon for the “Ewww…” 🙂 My wife and I tape and watch every show.
Jim Peacock is the Principal at Peak-Careers Consulting and writes a monthly newsletter for career practitioners. Peak-Careers offers discussion-based online seminars for career practitioners focused on meeting continuing education needs for CCSP, GCDF and BCC certified professionals as well as workshops for career practitioners and individual career coaching.
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