Networking is essential for anyone looking to find a job or advance their career, but it can often feel selfish or fake. How can you make beneficial connections for your job search while building lasting professional relationships that are mutually supportive? Networking etiquette is important, and so is your attention to human relationships.
Here’s a list of Do’s and Dont’s to building a genuine professional network:
Spend time getting to know your contacts
The key to fostering a connection is taking the time to get to know someone without expectations. Learn what that person is interested in, what their career goals are, the twists and turns in their career path and how they perceive their role at their company. If you want a genuine relationship, these are things that you can get to know about a person before you start asking favors. In learning these aspects of a person, you will also learn invaluable information about your field, yourself and possibly find a new mentor. Building relationships means building not only a network of contacts, but a network of support.
Clearly communicate your needs
When the time comes to ask for a recommendation or a favor, have clear needs and goals in mind to avoid any confusion or misplaced effort and energy on your part or on the part of your connection. This means understanding the stance and availability of your contact professionally as well as giving them your defined timeline and any information about you that they will need. Clear communication will lead to the best possible outcome for both parties involved, and will avoid a lot of frustration and possible strain on relationships.
During the networking process, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate what you are asking of your contacts. Create a balance in what you request and what you give so that you create mutually beneficial relationships. Showing your gratitude for their help to prevent appearing selfish is the first step, but brainstorming what you also have to offer your contacts takes you to the next level. Be creative! It could range from offering a listening ear, support on a project or a brainstorming session to taking your contact out for lunch.
Rule people out
When going through your possible contacts, don’t exclude people as possible connections just because you have a vague idea of what they do or their work does not align with your specific career field. You never know what a person has to offer, or what they may learn from you, until you reach out. With the growth in importance of interprofessional collaboration, you can feel confident widening your network across fields.
Be demanding or disrespectful
It’s important to know the difference between being communicative and being overbearing, and to never cross that line with someone in your network. A demanding person can easily be branded as a pest and their network, and possibly career, will be adversely affected. If people cannot or do not want to help you, don’t take it personally. Handle the situation with professionalism by showing appreciation for their time anyway.
Forget to say thank you
Always remember to show your gratitude to the people who you are building relationships with. This will help strengthen your relationships and leave a positive impression in your wake. You never know who the important players in your industry may be in the future and want to try to leave people happy with your interactions.
Networks should not be built around finding one position or getting one recommendation, they should be a lasting pillar of your career. Taking the time to be genuine in founding professional relationships will create for you a network rich in support and motivation in this job search and throughout your entire career.
More networking tips? Check our weekly newsletter ↓