Networking is good. Connecting is better.
By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco, ThirdQuarter Associate
From job leads to sales prospecting, we all have different reasons for networking but the main purpose is to connect.
“I prefer calling it ‘connecting’ to ‘networking’ because it is about connecting with people and building relationships,” says Wendy Watts, Director, Program and Business Development (Ontario) for ThirdQuarter, a national recruitment service for people aged 45 and over.
Networking isn’t about selling yourself by talking up a storm to impress the other person. It’s about making a meaningful connection with another person regardless of their age.
For the introverted job seeker or less-seasoned networker it can be quite daunting to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Think of it as a back-and-forth conversation with a sincere interest in what the other person has to say and who they are. “If you can remember the five Ws of journalism: who, what, where, when and why, then you have five easy questions to ask the person you have just met,” suggests Sue Barkman, president and CEO ThirdQuarter. “If the prospect of a lengthy conversation puts you way out of your comfort zone, then set a manageable goal of asking two or three questions before excusing yourself and moving on.”
Still not ready to make the introduction on your own? Ask the event organizer or host to introduce you to someone.
There are many great networking tips out there (you’ll find many on ThirdQuarter’s news and resources pages). One tactic is to compile your checklist and get to it, with a focus entirely on the end goal of getting a job. Each person you speak or correspond with is simply one possible step closer to work. Another approach is to use that checklist as a starting point for connecting with people, to enrich not just your chances of tapping into the hidden job market—which represents the bulk of available jobs–but also your life experience and personal network.
The opportunities to network are endless. Use social media, particularly LinkedIn, and reach out to friends and former colleagues. Attend industry and association events, minglers and breakfasts, conferences, lectures (many of which are free), take classes, join groups and associations or volunteer. Take the opportunity to talk with people at the shopping mall or on public transit, at a concert or restaurant or just waiting in line for a coffee.
Approach the experience with an open mind, embrace the moment as a learning opportunity, one in which you could find common ground and something to build on. “You never know when you’re going to make a new connection or even a friend, learn something interesting and helpful, discover you are in a position to help someone else—or meet someone who knows someone who will down the road lead you to a job,” says Watts.
“Sometimes when you’re talking to a wide variety of people—not just those in the industry or field you want to work in—ideas are sprung and it may introduce you to a new direction you never explored before.”
With this mindset, a strategic networking plan, which is critical for any job search, can turn contacts into relationships with genuine mutuality. You’re connecting with the person, not simply tapping into them because they might be of benefit in your job search.
For more information on ThirdQuarter visit www.thirdquarter.ca or call toll-free at 1.855.286.0306 to speak with a recruitment advisor.