Network Like It’s Your Job
“It’s not always what you know, but who you know.”
I can’t tell you how many times I heard this growing up from my dad, who seemed to know everyone as a result of working in the vending industry. As I grew older into my 20s, I realized that my dad’s favorite career advice was only partially true — you could know everyone and get along with everyone, but if you made the wrong choices, even those you knew wouldn’t want to hire you. So how do you use networking to help you get hired?
First, be the person you would want to employ, on and off the internet.
It doesn’t matter at what level your position is, if you work hard to give your best and do the job the right way without taking shortcuts, you will get noticed. Many of the people I worked with in my early adult years are now attorneys, doctors, and CEOs — and they all employ someone in my field.
Likewise, people are using social media to “watch” and network with others in their fields as well. You should never hesitate to tell people what you do, what you’re studying, or even what hobbies you enjoy. Everyone that talks to me on a regular basis knows that I write for a living, and I love offering those with questions advice and giving encouragement. When my friends or former co-workers launch a new product or start-up, I’m the person they call to help with their marketing needs. Why? Because they know what I do, and they know I’m ready to help them.
Business is business, but it’s not an excuse to be unnecessarily cruel.
No matter what field you are in, you are going to come into contact with sensitive situations, and depending on your field of employment, you may even find yourself dealing with someone on the worst day of their life. While many business decisions must be carried out with a lack of emotions attached to them, it is not a license to be unnecessarily cruel to another person. You may be tasked with firing a co-worker, for example, and being straightforward with the individual would be your best bet. However, it would be inappropriate to taunt them or yell during the process.
Always be ready. You never know who you’ll run into.
I’m not saying you need to be polished in business attire at all times, but when you go out, be prepared that you may meet someone that you would want to work with in the future. I personally wear a lot of casual or athletic wear out when running daily errands, so what does this mean for me? I put on a pair of my “good workout leggings” and I don’t wear anything too revealing, though the latter is more for my own personal comfort. However, since I do work with several local business owners, I don’t want to be embarrassed if I should happen to run into one of them — or if I meet someone new that may need my services. Instead of them thinking, “Wow, Tara dresses like a bum,” I would like them to think, “Tara must have plans to hit the gym sometime today. She is so motivated!” As for special events, expect to network and dress accordingly.
Strike up a conversation.
Personally, I have gone to hair and doctor appointments, friendly Starbucks meets, the grocery store, birthday parties, and small boutiques and have walked out with a new client. How do I do it?
I take an authentic interest in what they do for a living and I pay close attention if I happen to meet a small business owner or someone who works for a company in my field — they may know of an opportunity that would be perfect for me or their own company may have a need that I can assist them with. It is also important to allow the conversation and relationship to naturally progress by reading into body language, as you do not want to sound like a salesperson on your day off. If I see a way that I can offer a solution for an issue they’ve mentioned, I simply casually mention it and leave the ball in their court… with my card, of course.
Have your business card always on hand.
In my early adulthood years, business cards seemed so outdated. As a young sailor, I didn’t need them, as most people that needed my help were ready and able to show up at my desk. However, as I started transitioning out of the military and into the freelance and remote sectors, I often would meet someone interesting and scramble for a small piece of paper to jot down my information or try to remember to put their information into my phone before we parted ways. Sometimes, I would forget to do either and would be using social media to find them, often searching through friend lists of assumed mutual friends. Now, I simply keep extra business cards in all of my bags, and as an added bonus, it feels great to hand a new contact a sleek card while asking them to drop me a line sometime. And if I’m having an off-day and forgot my card, I make sure to connect with them as quickly as possible on social media!
Above all, have no fear.
As someone that has struggled with anxiety all of my life, I am constantly helping my brain rewire itself by putting myself out there to meet people. Working up the courage to tell someone that I love their shoes, simply asking what they do, or even making a funny joke in a doctor’s office can go a long way — you never know who you’re sitting next to. Always be ready.