Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Work It!


*You May Not Like It, but Learn to Network *
By PHYLLIS KORKKI (NY Times)

Q. Everyone is saying that you need to network to find a new job. But you hate networking. Do you have to do it?

A. Unfortunately, you probably do. Few people can get a job simply by e-mailing a résumé to a hiring manager — especially in these tough times.

It’s an old saw, but it’s true: you are more likely to find your next job through someone you know. The larger that circle of people, and the more you cultivate it, the better off you will be.

Q. But doesn’t this mean you’ll have to use people to achieve selfish goals, or pathetically ask people for help?

A: Not at all: Networking can be done honestly and thoughtfully, and it can help other people as much as they help you. Done correctly, networking is “a matter of teaching and learning rather than trying to put something over on someone,” said Anne Baber, co-founder of Contacts Count, a networking training company based in Silver Spring, Md.

Ms. Baber calls networking “the deliberate process of making connections for mutual benefit.” Instead of thinking “What can I get out of this?” think, “What can I give to this?” she said. Reciprocity is intrinsic to the process.

When you ask someone for help, request specific advice or information rather than leads for jobs, and both of you will feel more comfortable. It is risky for people to give someone they’ve just met a job lead or an introduction because it can put their reputations on the line, Ms. Baber
said.

If you avoid putting people on the spot and are patient and generous, job opportunities will come about organically, from people who have learned that they can trust you.

Q. You accept that networking is something you should have done all along. But you didn’t do it, and now you’re out of job. How do you start building a network? Is it too late?

A. Actually, you already have a network, “raggedy and uncultivated” though it may be, said Liz Ryan, leader of the Ask Liz Ryan online discussion forum, which is devoted to workplace issues. “There’s no statute of limitations on networking,” she said.

So make a list of all the people you know, even if you haven’t been in touch with some of them for years. Former co-workers are an excellent place to start. Other contacts can range from college friends to parents of your children’s soccer teammates to the teacher who directed you in your high school musical, Ms. Ryan said.

Then get back in touch and, if you are in the same town, suggest having coffee. If it seems appropriate, she said, ask for advice and moral support.

Don’t forget to include your family, friends and neighbors in your network, Ms. Baber said. And make sure that these people — as well as others — understand exactly what you have done in your career, and what you are looking for now.

You’d be surprised: your own mother-in-law may not know exactly what you do, Ms. Baber said. You need to be able to tell a crisp, clear and interesting story about yourself so that people will think of you if they hear of a job that matches your skills, she said.

Q. How do you expand your network?

A. Start by joining a professional association in the field where you want to be hired, Ms. Baber said. Also consider joining a job-hunting club in your area; you can share strategies and connect with more people who are not in your usual circle, she said. Other places to network include alumni associations, health clubs and classes.

Q. You’ve decided to attend a professional networking event. How can you make the most of it?

A. “You go to a networking event to broaden the circle of people that you know,” Ms. Ryan said. Just about the worst thing you can do is stick out your hand and say, “Hello, I’m looking for a job,” because people don’t know how to respond to it. You need to build up goodwill with that person first.

At first, simply engage in conversation as a way to establish mutual interests, she said, and realize that “you’re not trying to solve a problem that day at that moment.” If asked about your job, casually mention that you are looking, but don’t make a big deal out it, she said.

Q. How has technology changed the networking process?

A. A technology component is no longer optional in a job search, Ms. Ryan said. Social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter offer effective ways to do research on people and companies, to discover if you know anyone inside a company, to reconnect with potential contacts and to establish an online presence.

Having a profile on a career networking site like LinkedIn is very useful in establishing a professional persona, said Liz Lynch, founder of the Center for Networking Excellence in New York. It may also be worthwhile to have a Facebook profile to convey a personal persona, she said. Still, “you can’t just put your profile up there and expect magic to happen,” she said.

Both Ms. Lynch and Ms. Ryan cautioned against spending too much time online. Instead, use your online research and connections to pave the way for offline meetings — because it is still the face-to-face networking that tends to seal the deal.

E-mail: ccouch@nytimes.com

2 comments:

Prica said...

yes ... we should embrace dialogs in society...especially when they're chill.

xx
prica

Johanne said...

Nice Q&A. I agree that networks are really important. I believe that networking is the best way to find openings and gain referrals - something that will increase the chances of getting hired.