Networking is hard work. Social media makes it seem like it should be easy. In reality, the big social sites profit from the time you spend on them. They are subtly programmed to make you feel like you’ve succeeded when what you’ve really done is made them some more money.
Successful networking means that you’d have less time to spend on those sites. So, they create the illusion of connection and the pretense of friendship. They make it seem like getting work by being on the social net is like falling off a log.
Yeah, not so much.
With 1,200 Facebook friends, 7,200 followers on Twitter and 4,000 professional connections on LinkedIn, I have some idea of the value of those networks. I am, of course, hopelessly addicted to the constant flow of news and 140 character increments of insight. At times, I feel like I must be a fortune cookie rancher. It’s a good thing those little messages don’t come on small slips of paper.
Or, maybe if they did, I’d have a better idea about what to do with them all.
For the most part, I am overwhelmed and have the sense that I am perpetually falling behind. The outputs of the various groupings flow like a river down the screen of my desktop computer. One of my phones starts beeping and whirring the moment you turn it on. The flow of social media stuff is hiding over there, around the corner, waiting to leap into my life.
One thing is sure. Optimal effectiveness does not come from having the most friends, followers or connections. Job hunting (and the required forms of networking) is rarely a question of volume. If volume worked, sending a resume to every job you see online would get you a job. You’ve tried that and know it doesn’t work.
(Everybody tries it at some point in their job hunt, even CEOs)
Here are 7 really useful things to do when you are networking.
- Know what you want.
It’s easy in the saying and hard in the doing. Most people get extremely anxious when asked to be specific about what they are after. Have a short statement (3 sentences, no more than 40 words) that describes exactly what you are after.
- Stay focused
Keep referring to that short statement. If the job listing or connection isn’t leading you in that direction, abandon it. Be polite. Don’t burn bridges. But, don’t do things that lead away from what you want.
- Understand your online reputation.
Sit with a friend while you a) Google your name; b) Review last year’s activity on your Facebook page; c) Walk through all of your tweets; and, d) Audit the rest of your online persona. If you’re not happy with it and it doesn’t point to what you want, fix it.
- Have a friend track down your offline reputation
It takes someone other than you to find out what people are saying. 20% of job candidates were disqualified by the people they listed as references. Be smarter than that. Get someone to ask and tell you.
- Always say ‘thank you’
You can never say it often enough. Practice writing thank you notes. Send them to everyone you encounter. Gratitude is a great buffer for some of the hard shocks that come with the job hunt.
- Always give more value than you receive
The real key to a vibrant network is that it enriches everyone who touches it. Get used to the fact that you have to return two favors for every one you get. Always come to the table knowing the value you are going to give. Make it really good to know you.
- Always know what the next step is
Don’t have a conversation if you can’t imagine the things that will follow. Open every conversation by saying what you hope you (and your network partner in the conversation) will get from talking. Close each conversation saying, “Here are our next steps.”
The really good news about building a network is that the 100 right people are more than enough to build a career around. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be on your way.