We all know that networking is the #1 way to get a new job. Everyone says so! But what if you’re shy and hate doing it?
I’m just like that. The idea of networking always terrified me. When I started my business, I knew I’d have to make new contacts and revive old ones, and so I bit the bullet and started making phone calls and going to meetings where I struck up awkward small talk with strangers.
So you can imagine how happy I was when I stumbled on a way to network that didn’t involve shuffling into rooms and handing business cards to people I didn’t know.
That’s the secret I want to share with you – there is a way to network that you won’t find at all threatening. You just have to redefine what’s mean by “networking.”
My realization happened when I referred a potential client to a resume writer who had more expertise in that industry than I did. The client was delighted that I was honest with him and referred his friend to me a few weeks later. And the other resume writer subsequently sent several clients to me when she went on vacation. And all it had taken was a quick email from me.
And that’s when the light bulb went off! Helping people without expecting anything in return is the very best way to network.
Think about this in terms of career development and/or your job search. Instead of putting together a list of people you know and then thinking how you can tell them that you need a job, how about just reaching out to help other people?
Every person that you help is a new connection and every one of them may prove valuable down the road.
5 Tips for Networking by Helping Others
Here are just a few ideas I have for expanding your network/reconnecting with people by helping others:
1) Contact headhunters in your field and instead of just asking if they have opportunities, offer to help them source for positions. Send a brief email saying “I know you specialize in sales recruiting for the medical industry and I have an extensive network of contacts in this field. Feel free to call me or send along any vacancies. I’d be happy to pass them along.”
2) Watch your LinkedIn network, checking for questions from your contacts. LinkedIn allows people to send out questions to their entire network – be sure to have these sent to your email so that you can offer assistance when possible. Just getting your name in front of people regularly is half the battle. (Note for this to work you need to make connections with as many people as possible. The more people you know, the more people you can help).
3) Look for blogs or forums about your area of expertise and become active. I have one client who is a search engine marketer – he found his most recent position via a marketing forum where he regularly answered questions and gave his opinion. One day he received a private message via the forum software offering him an interview.
4) Contact friends, family and others in your network and offer help for free. A friend who is a graphic designer revamped several website while she was unemployed. Not only did this buy her goodwill with her contacts, but it also fleshed out her resume during the period of time she was without a job. I have a similar story – when I first started out, I offered recruiters a free resume rewrite for one of their clients. Of course, when they saw my work, they continued to send me paying customers.
5) Offer help to a charity or non-profit organization in your area. Sure you might not want to work there full-time but all of the people who volunteer there know people who know people and someone may well have an opportunity that\’s perfect for you. And hey, it beats sitting at home reading the same job postings online day after day.
These are just 5 ways that popped into my mind for ways that you can expand your network by helping others. And the beauty of this approach is that in addition to expanding your network, you get to feel good about your contribution every day.
What about you? Can you think of ways you could apply this for yourself? Or have you already done so? If so, tell us how it worked out.
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