Blog: Ditch the dread: 5 steps to network like a pro

Ditch the dread: 5 steps to network like a pro

Networking? When youre out of work, especially if you are an older job seeker, you sometimes feel ashamed and you dont want to talk to anyone. The last thing you want to do is to network.

But weve all been told that networking is the best method to find satisfying employment, especially if you are concerned about age discrimination. So ditch the dread and start networking.

Banish any thought of humiliation. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. No job is secure these days and there is no shame in being between jobs. Especially now with all the people displaced by the restrictions imposed to fight the pandemic.

Even so, getting rid of feelings of embarrassment when out of work is easier said than done. But here are five tips to help you banish your fears, and network like a professional while building your self-esteem and confidence in the process.

1 Collaborate

You will find it a great help if you can find someone else who is looking for work and collaborate with them. This makes a huge difference you can mentor each other, share ideas and resources and build each others confidence.
Research has shown that when you face a stressful situation, sharing your fears and feelings with someone in a similar situation is an effective way to overcome the stress. As you help someone else overcome their fears, you mentor yourself to do the same. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.
At the same time, you encourage each other when you face situations you find daunting. With this sort of support, you are more likely to push through the doubt barrier and carry out the task you feared. Working together, you will also gain great satisfaction and be able to celebrate not just your achievements but also those of your collaborator.

2 Create a road map to success

Good planning has been shown to be the best strategy to overcome stress. This was the outcome of a survey of 3,000 participants conducted by psychologist and self-help author, Robert Epstein. While you are creating a plan for your own job search, by sharing the plan with your collaborator, you allow for other ideas and this can result in an even better plan and greater confidence in its efficacy.

A well scheduled plan boosts the courage and determination to tackle daunting tasks. If you intend to meet a new contact for an information interview next week, schedule all aspects of preparation, the research into the organization, the questions you want to ask and the phone call or email to set up the meeting. As you tackle the less daunting tasks, you become more confident in your ability to achieve a useful interview and more resolute to do so.

3 Start slowly

You need to be able to walk before you can run. This is equally true of networking if you find it a bit daunting. Its not a race its the quality of your networking which brings success, not the quantity of contacts you have.

The important thing is to build your confidence as you begin networking. To start with, identify just one occupational role or one organization where you would like to work. Research it as far as you can. This is important find out whatever you can before approaching anyone. Then, through your research or through your existing network, identify someone who could give you further information. Just one person.

Limit your expectations. Dont try to find out everything you need to know in the one interview. Make a realistic target. Choose one topic which you would like to discuss and compose half a dozen questions based on your research.

Your aim is to get your contact to want to help you. This means building good rapport and this starts with the initial phone call so plan it carefully. We will discuss how best to do this in next weeks article.

During the meeting whether face-to-face, by video link or by some other means, keep the need to build that rapport in your mind, to get the other person to warm towards you and to want to help you.

Its the quality of your meetings which is most likely to bring that success, not the quantity of your contacts. So start slowly and build your confidence as you go.

4 Warm contact, not cold

The best networking is not about approaching strangers. The best networking is when someone you know gives you an introduction or referral to someone else. This also makes it so much easier for you.

If you are an older worker, you may already have a substantial network of people who know you and your work. This is a great plus. You may already know, or at least know of, people in your target organization.

If not, it is possible that some of your existing network may know people who could help you. Ask them for a referral. If you get a referral, make sure that you mention the name of the mutual contact who gave you the referral. This not only warms your new contact to you, it also boosts your confidence.

Otherwise, make use of LinkedIn and other social media sites not only to identify possible contacts but also to find out a little about them. You may then approach them by a carefully worded message on the social media page or perhaps by email.

But dont start networking with the idea that the bigger your network, the better. Start with the goal of building rapport, establishing good relationships. This is what is important. The stronger your relationship with the people in your network, the more they will be willing to help you.

So start with one person. Establish a good rapport. Then, only then, move on to a second. Yes, it takes time and you may be impatient to get back into the workforce but this method actually gets results more quickly than if you rush. Also, importantly, through starting slowly, you find that you do a better job of it, become significantly more confident and start to really enjoy it.

5 Give value

You will feel much happier and more confident if you know that you can give back value at a network meeting and you can. There are four simple ways you can and should give value. They are:

  1. Introduction or referral: when you have been recommended by a mutual contact, the person you are meeting will know that you are someone worth knowing. He or she will be interested to meet you because there is potential value in knowing you.
  2. Information: know as much about the organization or the industry as possible. Research as thoroughly as you can. Your knowledge will demonstrate your potential value to the organization and your keen interest in working there.
  3. Interest: interest equals motivation and every organization is looking for motivated people to join their team. Your keen interest, demonstrated not only through your research but also through setting up the meeting, indicates the value you bring.
  4. Integrity: your genuineness is another and equally important indicator of value.

Value is also shown by your follow-up. A thank-you email makes a great start and then regular updates on your progress. Should you discover something which could be useful to your contacts, well, sending that is the icing on the cake.

It is worth remembering that job seekers who find positions through networking are actually doing employers a significant favour. Firstly this method saves a lengthy and expensive recruitment campaign through advertising positions online or through using recruitment agencies. It allows the employer to get to know the applicant better than a rsum and brief interview following a job advertisement. This usually results in a more successful hire.

The networking approach also allows the employer to keep hiring decisions quiet which can be important if they are not yet ready to announce a new project to the public.

So be confident that you are not wasting someones valuable time, you can bring value to the meeting and you are worth talking to.

Enjoy the ride!

What we enjoy, we tend to do well. So look for aspects of networking which bring you satisfaction and pleasure. As you establish strong relationships with people, you will enjoy communicating with them and they will enjoy communicating with you. You will both be willing to help each other and you will appreciate mutual support. Lifelong friendships have resulted this way. So enjoy it and network like a pro.

Next week, we will discuss that sometimes daunting initial phone call to set up an information interview.