Most people hate networking or at least all the people I talk to do. I think it’s the notion of enduring small talk with strangers at fabricated social gatherings that is the issue. This “hi I am Jane Doe and I am only talking to you because I am looking for a job” feeling isn’t how we should look at networking.
I get it, everyone is afraid of in-person conversations especially with the hype around the coronavirus. Here are common myths about networking:
You have to become extraverted.
Networking costs money.
It doesn't lead to a job offer.
It will be awkward the entire night.
Its speed dating for business people.
Trust me I had these same myths but let's think about why you should start networking.
We have all heard that.
" Your network is your net worth."
Okay, so that quote might be extreme but there is some merit to it. Everyone should start networking in some capacity throughout their career. It's really hard to advance in your carer without it.
Gaining Access to Your Next Career
Reason one, networking can give a realistic glimpse into your next career. I really had a very limited idea of what a finance or marketing major job would look like outside of the generic “Financial Analyst and Marketing Associate.’ But as any job searcher knows, job titles and descriptions don’t usually align with the major name.
So I started networking or having lunch with alumni who had the same major to gain a better understanding of what I wanted to do after college. I remember getting taken to what I then considered fancy lunches in downtown Saint Paul to simply just chat with experienced alumni about their job and what exactly they did.
Don’t get me wrong it felt like a blind date in the beginning but after the first 5 minutes, it was like having lunch with an old roommate. This process totally made it easier for me to narrow down what I wanted to at least enter into after undergrad.
Gaining Access to Potential Mentors
Apart from getting free lunches once a month, I was able to gain a few mentors out of the entire process. Mentors provide you with perspective and career guidance that is imperative for long-term success. Businesses have boards of director to help with providing strategic direction and insights, and people have mentors.
Start networking because it is a great opportunity to find new mentors who can help you through your current role or even guide you of in a new role.
We all know about the 6 degrees of separation. Cliche but true! Well, a mentor is just one step closer to your next hiring manager.
Gaining Interpersonal and Communication Skills
The best benefit of networking is developing interpersonal and communication skills.
I’m sure you have heard of the 30-second elevator speech. Well, when you start networking it becomes a forum to practice this and sharpen your communication skills.
When interviewing or job searching, communication is almost if not more important than technical or functional qualifications. Networking takes you out of your comfort zone and provides you with a safe avenue to gain better communication skills.
Get in the Action and Start Networking Now
Start networking today. It really isn't that hard but in fact, it is actually quite easy. Here are easy ways to start networking.
Check your Alumni site for upcoming events that you can easily join
Contact Alumni via Linkedin in your field of interest
Get connected to Business Resources Groups at work to find out upcoming events
So the next time you see a networking event, think of it as an investment for yourself. Try and push yourself to do at least one networking event each quarter. I promise you won’t regret it.