One word that will come up over and over again on job search blogs and, well, everywhere in the business world is ‘networking’. Personally, networking has always been an absolutely terrifying concept (being that I am extremely awkward when first meeting people) and I used to dread the thought of such a thing. The fact that I hate networking aside, it’s something you just have to do as the pros heavily outweigh the cons. Networking helps to increase your exposure, your knowledge base, and can sometimes even lead directly to jobs. Needless to say, a large network can come in handy.
A common misconception by those new to the networking scene is that the whole point of networking is to get someone else to do something for you. Well, get that idea out of your head now, or else you’ll be in for a rude awakening. If you’re talking to a complete stranger why on earth would they hand you a job? Or a contact? Or anything? The initial goal of networking is to see what you can do for others. Because networking is a two-way street those who you help will likely want to help you in return. I understand this may seem counterintuitive, but don’t expect anything in return. You need to genuinely want to help people, make their lives easier in whatever way you can and let it be. Yes, networking is a way to gain favors, but that isn’t all it’s about. Be curious and reach out to interesting people in your field. Doing this will start to build some relationships – the favors may follow afterward, but they may not.
By looking at networking as an opportunity to learn more about your industry and help those in it you will not only gain valuable knowledge, but contacts as well. Be proactive, find connections between yourself and others in your field and use them! The old saying, “it’s not about what you know, but who you know” is absolutely true. A majority of positions are secured because the job seeker knows someone within the company, so never let a networking opportunity pass you by!