To add to the career management pile-on of Rick and Toby’s recent posts, I wanted to extend the “it’s not what you know” line of thought around networking. Forget standing around a dull conference hall or bad party with a drink in hand, making small talk and exchanging business cards. Banish the thought of a cold call to someone you have no connection to in hopes they’ll let you buy them coffee. That’s fun for…nobody.
Instead, be a good friend and a genuinely helpful person. Seriously. That’s really all it is.
Adopt a perspective about networking not simply as a “pull” (I need a job so I’ll reach out to my network) but more as a “push” — how can I help the people I know?
Today, the Web makes this even easier. Sign-up with one of the easy, free online networking tools to connect with the people you already know and like. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t in your industry or line of work – in fact, variety is a good thing. Then, stay in touch with them. Find out that a cool former co-worker is looking for a better opportunity and help him get it. The neighbor who has to fill a position on her team immediately? Connect her with people she should talk to. Notice that a colleague just landed a new job and send him a quick email to say congratulations.
This makes you feel good (and if you’re a Buddhist, may help ensure you’re not a cockroach in the next life). Even if it doesn’t directly help you land a future job, you build a reputation — dare I say personal brand? — as someone who gives a damn. A little bit of your time reaps big rewards and helps build a community of professionals and friends that can then help one another.
A woman who’s taken this approach to the extreme is profiled in a recent Fast Company piece. She has 13,000 LinkedIn connections and seems to know each and every one. Ok, that’s kind of insane, but her advice is spot on:
- Always offer to help someone even if you don’t know how to do it
- Give selflessly
- Don’t forget people
- Be clear when you ask for help
So if you don’t have updated contact information for the people you want to keep in touch with, make that your career management investment this week. And if you’re already doing it, how else can you help who you know?