Is networking the best tool for a job search? Like everything else, it depends on how you use it. If you’re just calling people and asking for jobs, then no, it does not. If you can offer something of value – knowledge, experience or even friendship – then yes, it can.
However, many people struggle with chronic shyness. As they berate themselves for not reaching out, attending networking groups and cold-calling companies, their self esteem can slide as well. But even these aggressive, extroverted networking efforts are not necessarily the best way to build an effective network.
Get Over Networking Fear
If you’re not comfortable with face-to-face networking, try it on-line first. Websites like www.linkedin.com and www.facebook.com are great places to contact people. If you can break the ice in electronic worlds, you will be more confident when you meet people face-to-face.
Social networking sites are growing exponentially, which opens more and more back doors to your target companies. However, there is more to gain than just job contacts. Networking is really about people helping each other by sharing knowledge. This is done in groups.
When you join groups, ask questions and get involved. If you like someone’s answers, look at their profile. Is this somebody you would like to know more about? Try emailing them in private about their answers, rather than just posting your comments in the discussion areas.
After you’ve shared some emails back and forth, then ask the person to connect. They don’t have to work for your immediate target companies to be valuable. The goal is to build a self-sustaining network that will last beyond the job search.
Once you get accustomed to reaching out to people, then go after your target companies, seeking them on LinkedIn and Twitter. Just like anything, networking is a skill that gets better with practice. If you’ve started to build your network already, you will quickly become a valued asset instead of “that creepy guy” who tracks people down and bombards them with silly or irrelevant emails.
Learn to build a valuable network. It’s not really about building the numbers if you have no idea who these people are or what your connection to them is. As in real life, concentrate on building mutually beneficial business relationships. That is what true networking is all about.