I was always afraid of networking when I was growing up, not just because I was an introvert, but because I just didn’t feel right asking for a job from someone I didn’t really know. I met a lot of people, yet I didn’t know how to provide value to them and ask for help in return. By not leveraging my network, and expanding it, it took me eight months to find a job upon graduating college even with eight internships.
After one of my friends got a job without interviewing due to this uncle being the head of HR, I realized that networking can completely change your job search. People who are more networked gain access, information and can have a smoother recruiting process. After starting my first job, I vowed that I would also prioritize networking an essential part of my life and today I’m proud to have built a massive network. Here are five reasons why you might be struggling to build a professional network based on my experiences and the mistakes I see people making most often:
1. You haven’t discovered what value you can offer. Regardless of your profession or industry, you have some value you can offer others based on your skills and current network. Your value can be that you can connect two people together who can benefit from one another or it could be that you can promote someone on your blog or social networks to support their project. It could even be you sending someone articles or research that benefits them or that you’re willing to give them some consulting time for free. The only cost of distributing value is your time and you will have to invest your time in others, even if those relationships might not pan out in the end.
2. You are a taker instead of a giver. Too many people are what my mother calls “users” or those who want to only benefit from you without giving back anything in return. When I was in high school, I was the guy who created custom CD’s and people kept asking me for them, yet those same people were just using me – they weren’t my friends. You know someone is a giver when they are putting in effort to see how they can help you first without asking for anything in return. You know someone is a taker when they ask you to do something without having a relationship with you and then disregard you when you ask for something. The people who give the most are always the best networkers.
3. You forget about people. Part of my daily routine is to connect with my closest friends and strongest professional contacts. This is partly because I’m an extremely social person, I work from home so I feel like I have to be more connected to maintain sanity and because I don’t want to be forgotten. You’ve probably received messages from people you haven’t spoken with in years and you’re both to blame for not connecting sooner. Relationships fade if you don’t nurture them so make part of your daily routine re-connecting with people.
4. You miss opportunities to network. There are infinite places and times to network and you probably overlook many of them. You can go to events and blogs but also meet people in places like your local library or when traveling on a train or plane. If someone contacts you asking for advice, you can either help them or connect them with someone who is more suited to respond. Either way, you are creating or facilitating a networking situation.
5. You rely on social networking too much. Use social networks to discover the right people to meet and then turn online relationships to offline ones. Offline relationships are much more powerful because they carry more emotions. If all you do is stay online, not only is it not good for your health but you will become more socially awkward and disconnected. By conducting searches on Google, LinkedIn and other sites, you’re able to find the right people to meet near where you live or when you travel. It saves you a lot of time because if you go to an event, you usually don’t know who will be there to talk to. Your time is valuable, just like theirs, so put in the effort if you want to get the most out of the relationship in the long term.
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Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success.