I admit, I’ve never really embraced the word, “networking,” or the idea of it. Instead, I love the concept of NetWeaving. Over at the NetWeavers International website, they promote a pay-it-forward approach and publish a creed that talks about a “shift from thinking about WIIFM (What’s in it for Me) to WIIFY (What’s in it for YOU).” As well, they discuss strategies in learning how to be a resource for others to provide information and resource contacts.
Though the pay-it-forward and WIIFY concepts are commendable, and that which I aspire to emulate, I also feel, by necessity, to bolster our “giving” attitude, our own needs must be fed. This will energize us to be a strong resource and advocate for others.
Whether you call it networking or netweaving, the idea of building these relationship opportunities may be daunting. Whether an introvert or extrovert, the focused and proactive careerist and job seeker must look beyond those polarizing labels and think career value and prowess that will not only add value to others but will circle back and nourish your career, as well.
To overcome my own networking discomfort over the years, I’ve found researching and joining quality-focused professional and social media associations, committees, groups, partnerships, collaborations, etc., to be a best practice for carving a networking key and unlocking professional career opportunities.
For example, by joining an industry- or job-specific professional association and immediately volunteering to become involved with a committee, group or initiative, the idea of networking is broken down into smaller chunks. Suddenly, you’re not peering into a room full of dozens (or even hundreds) of warm bodies during general monthly membership meetings and expected to casually, but purposefully walk up to other members, introduce yourself and strike up enlightening conversations, ask them-focused questions and become immediately engaged in their enchanting spell.
Instead, by joining smaller subgroups within a larger organization, you are creating an orderly and purposeful opportunity to attend scheduled, agenda-filled meetings on specific, action-focused topics such as “marketing” or “membership” or “certification,” or, well, whatever committee or group to which you’ve offered to contribute. It’s really quite easy to do, as most not-for-profits are eager to add to their roster willing, capable volunteers to contribute to their forward-movement.
During these committee meetings, by contributing value, offering your time, energy, intellectual capital and perhaps project management talent, you are giving as all good networkers must strive to do! At the same time, you are building relationships with other association members, and these relationships may provide direct or indirect value to your career objectives (i.e., you are getting!).
As well, through social media venues,top of which are Twitter (my favorite), LinkedIn and Facebook, you create a seamless platform upon which to start and grow your networking seeds intuitively and organically, and with less of the pressure, perhaps, of in-person association meetings.
For example, by joining Groups on LinkedIn, you can start a question and answer thread, add to someone else’s conversation and/or post updates to your own profile in order to share thoughts/ideas and career conversations that are of value to your LinkedIn contacts. This conversation and information sharing is a part of networking.
On Twitter, opportunities to connect, converse and add value run rampant. Once you’ve begun following a few people—listen and engage. Offer information. Tweet and retweet value-add information including blog posts, industry and career niche articles and smart personalized 140-character remarks that others make. These action steps will reinforce your career positioning message.
For example, if you are a Retail Marketing Executive looking for a position that leverages your Operations, Process and Brand Innovation capabilities, then tweet out articles and original thoughts related to those, specific areas of your value!
Follow industry-specific leaders in the retail marketing arena and strike up conversation, respond to queries they make and simply add value to THEIR stream.
Download HootSuite and Add Columns and Groups. Break down the people you are following into manageable lists; i.e., as a career resume writer and strategist, my groups include Recruiters, Writers, Human Resource Pros and more! Keep an eye on these groups, and interact! If an opportunity to contribute content to someone’s blog appears, take it! Spot a blog post that resonates and to which you can add a meaningful comment that also will support your career value proposition, take time to compose an articulate response!
See an opportunity to join a collective of other careerists who produce joint blogging initiatives, take the time to do it! See volunteer groups and partnerships where you may add value online, seek out a conversation with the group leader and/or simply join and begin cross-promoting and advocating their members. It is likely that they will appreciate your advocacy, and in some cases, reciprocate the promoting.
Above all, thinking of networking as conversations, sharing and cross-collaboration versus just purposefully promoting yourself to individuals and groups to get to your dream job will alleviate the pressure that comes with self-promotion and self-absorption. Yes, job search, ultimately is about you and filling that need, tempering that job-loss or career-shift pain; but the process of filling that need must be tempered with a purposefully organic approach that is layered with rich conversations and contributions.
To read what my Career Collective colleagues are saying about “networking,” please click on the links below:
5 Little Secrets About Networking, @Careersherpa
Networking: Easy as 1, 2 , 3, @WorkWithIllness
How to Take the Intimidation Out of Networking, @heathermundell
Networking for the Shy and Introverted, @KatCareerGal
A tale of two networkers, @DawnBugni
Networking for Job Candidates Who Hate Networking, @heatherhuhman
Networking? Ugh! @resumeservice
Network, Network, Network, @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes
3 ways to make networking fun for introverts and extroverts, @Keppie_Careers
Grow Your Career Networking Seeds Organically, @ValueIntoWords
Networking: It’s a Way of Life, @WalterAkana
Social Media Networking & Your Career, @GayleHoward
Networking for the Networking-Phobic, @JobHuntOrg
Networking: Why Who You Know Doesn’t Count, @Chandlee