Networks are pretty consistently the number one tool in finding jobs and building businesses. As far as the ability to get you employed, networks are more important than the resume, answering want ads, and writing cover letters. This is not news… The job search gurus have been saying this for decades. In some ways, networking is a part of our DNA. Human beings evolved in small tribes where everyone knew each other and everyone helped each other out. Although it was a matter of survival during our hunting and gathering days, this need to stay connected and support each other is hard-wired in us. When we’re job-seeking, so much of our energy is spent on activities that go against our nature, like trying to describe our greatest accomplishments in bullet points. Instead of frowning at the computer, lets flex our primal community-building muscles to get you the job that you’re looking for.
My goals for you has always been for you to design the life you want to live, not just find a job to pay the bills. Networking fits right into that. One problem with believing that, however, is the term itself. There is nothing warm and fuzzy about “networking.” But what you’re actually doing is building your community. You’re reaching out to current friends and new people where you share interests, both professional and personal. The way we’re going to think about networking is about having fun and doing things you enjoy with other people. So, from here on out, whenever you hear or read the word “network,” think “hanging out and having fun.”
But this is hanging out and having fun with a purpose. Socializing is important in its own right of course, but we are talking about a professional network here. Building your community is about deciding what you need, what you can give, and the best ways to go about giving and receiving. To build your professional community, start with these steps:
- Make a list of things you need to get the job you want and a life you’ll love. This may be certification and training, a business partner, new skills, experience, or simply someone who wants to hire you. Write down at least 10 things that you don’t currently have that you need for life and career you want.
- Prioritize or order your list according to what will get you where you want to go the fastest.
- Who do you know who can help? Go through your list and right off the top of your head, do you know of anyone who can help with that particular item? Write their name down.
- Commit to reaching out to that person. This means that you decide now when and how you’ll contact them. Once you’ve figured that out, schedule time in your calendar and give yourself a reminder to get it done.
- Review the items where you don’t know anyone who can help. Decide on the most likely way to find someone who can help you. The most common ways are Google, LinkedIn, professional associations, and social media. Again, commit to doing the search by setting aside time on your calendar and giving yourself a reminder.
Decide on how often you can focus on building your community. This step is about actually meeting or talking with people. The amount of time you can spend depends not only on your other commitments but your personality characteristics as well. Extroverts get energized by social interactions while introverts get burnt out. Decide on something sustainable for you, then do it!
What you talk about with your community partners depends on your list. Just remember that a community is collection of interdependent and mutually supportive individuals so you’ll want to listen to how you can help others as well. The goal is not a one-for-one transactional exchange, but simply an openness to be of service if you can. The benefit of this type of networking is that it can lead to true friendship and professional support after you get your next job. This is career design at its most efficacious, when your actions to develop the job and life you love enrich your life, and the lives of others, in the moment and in the future.
And please consider me a member of your community. If all of this is confusing or if you’re feeling stuck, schedule a free 30-minute consultation at the top of this page and we’ll get you back on track!