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Do I really have to network?

Networking is an essential element of finding your way back to work – and it can also be the most daunting!  For many people, networking means entering a room of strangers or acquaintances, ‘working the room’ and leaving with a fist full of business cards and the promise of some follow-up meetings.  This is a very extreme example of networking and isn’t likely to be the way you find your next role.  Nevertheless, networking will be an essential element of your return to work strategy – so what’s getting in your way?

Why do we find networking difficult?
Our most common objections to networking are:
  • networking is only for political types. How true is this?   Are you being political in wanting to learn some new information, get ideas and advice, find a new role or develop your career?
  • lack of time. This is more a question of how important your job search is among your list of competing priorities. It will need to be near to number one, for you to put in the time and effort that effective networking requires.
  • shyness or reserve, not wanting to bother people.  This usually stems from lack of confidence.  It is really important that you start to work on your confidence level before embarking on your networking activity.  If you are completely lacking confidence, you certainly won’t find networking possible, let alone enjoyable. You need to believe you have something to offer the people you connect with.
Some networking truths
It might be helpful for you to think about the following realities of networking, if you have any lingering objections to it.
  1. Networking is part of life.  Everyone does it.  The people you wish to connect with will all have been helped at some point in their career by someone with whom they have networked. They will all be networking to find information and to meet
    potential customers, suppliers, employees and employers.  You are not asking them to do anything out of the ordinary and you are probably doing it yourself, all the time, without even realising it.  When you ask someone you know for a restaurant, a plumber or a hotel recommendation, you are networking!
  2. Networking isn’t all about attending large events. Contacting a friend of a friend for a short chat about their role can be just as valuable.
  3. The most obvious reason why someone might be keen to talk to you is that most people are on the look out for new sources of information or insight and employers are usually looking out for people with talent and skills. You will always be of interest to the people you are meeting if you bring perspectives and insights, as well as your own network. When we’re working hard, we often don’t have time to keep up-to-date with industry articles and research; if you take time to read about your area of interest, you can bring this new information to your new contacts.
  4. Most people love to talk about themselves!  So, if you are asking about a person’s career path, their role, their training, their industry knowledge or their organisation they will often welcome talking to you.