In my six years working with post-secondary students, I’ve learned that many consider networking to be a plastic, artificial technique. No wonder students avoid it. The truth is that good networking is about being yourself, connecting with people, finding common ground, and building and maintaining a relationship over time. While it’s true that networking is vital to a successful job search, it can also be scary, especially if you imagine you’ll have to be an expert “schmoozer”. Here are some tips to help you take the fear out of networking and be yourself in the process.
Have the right mindset. Yes, networking is uncomfortable. But so is being unemployed (or underemployed). You need to find your way to get over the fear. If you are thinking “this won’t help”, “I won’t meet the right people”, well, you probably won’t. As Henry Ford said “If you believe you can or if you believe you can’t, you’re right.” So go in with curiosity and excitement, unattached to the outcome of finding a job. Make it a game, see how many fascinating people you can meet. If you could choose would you make it fun or frightening?
Get informed. Read up on the latest trends in the market place. Do research on companies of note. Follow the news. Not only does that show you where some job leads might be, it also gives you something to talk about at networking events or interviews. This will also ensure you’ll be talking about topics that truly interest you.
Get involved. Once you have an idea of what interests you, join a related association and volunteer. This lets you meet people who are in the know about the industry and the available jobs. You’ll also be more likely talking to friends of friends – much less scary indeed.
Vancouver Sun; March 14, 2007