Categorized | Job Hunting

The Benefits of Networking on Personal Time

Posted on 03 November 2008

“It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

Like it or not, that old adage is as true now as the day it was coined. Landing the job you want sometimes has nothing to do with your job skills or experience, but everything to do with your friends and acquaintances.

Perfecting your networking skills is important--but it doesn’t have to be a joyless task. You can network in just about any situation, as long as you’re willing to strike up a conversation, exude confidence, and listen attentively. This can happen at a party, at your favorite coffee bar, or during a breakfast hosted by the local Jaycees. Opportunities for networking abound in everyday social meetings and more organized companionable settings. The happy marriage of social congeniality and professional networking serves as the basis for countless organizations across the county. In every community, there are groups designed to gather like-minded folks together to do what they will. Online resources include clubs like The Pint (“the leading networking organization for Portland’s expanding interactive community”) and Fourth Tuesday Atlanta (a non-profit professional social networking organization for lesbians). Then there’s Cocktails with Courtney, a product of Courtney Pulitzer Creations that “facilitates networking for Internet-related professionals on- and off-line in wired cities around the world.” These and other organizations provide a chance for members to meet others with comparable backgrounds for the purposes of having a good time and making professional connections.

Getting to know many people who can benefit your career is hard work, especially if you aren’t an outgoing person by nature.

Time After Time
Lorena Fee, a strategic market analyst in Austin, TX, belongs to two local organizations–one social, one professional–that provide her with occasions to unwind and get connected. While meetings of the Metropolitan Breakfast Club present choice occasions for conversing with Austin’s noteworthy political and business leaders, Fee looks forward to gatherings of Austin’s Singles Volunteers because of the diverse convivial opportunities they present.

“Some people go to flirt and find a partner,” she says, “some people really want to find a good job. Some people are there to add a little spice to their lives, other people spread their cards around in an effort to build up their own businesses. There are so many reasons why people join social networking clubs.” Fee finds that a flexible approach works best when networking in a social environment: “Sometimes, I’ll attend an event with no agenda in mind. I’ll just go to see what happens and that’s when magic occurs. You just never know.”

There are those, though, who successfully combine freestyle socializing with professional networking. Marilyn Kainer, a recovery specialist with First USA in Austin, sees almost every social interaction as a networking opportunity. Because she never leaves home without a supply of business cards, she is always prepared, no matter what the occasion, to meet a prospective colleague.

Kainer also recognizes the importance of being a good listener. “People love to talk about themselves,” she says, “especially if they have a captive audience. If asked, they will share what they like about their job, offer insider information concerning company politics, and will always be happy to give you the name of someone they know who can help you–if you seem sincere. The most important thing to remember about networking is that you must have a goal in mind. It’s much easier to connect with the right organization, HR person, or interviewing supervisor.”

Practice Makes Perfect
Networking skills need to be practiced repeatedly before you begin to see results. “Putting yourself out there” is vital to enhancing your career path. Getting to know many people who can benefit your career is hard work, especially if you aren’t an outgoing person by nature.

Fee admits that, for her, networking is not easy. “You have to be confident and feel good about just walking into a crowd and starting a conversation,” she believes. “The thing about networking is that it’s ongoing. It never stops. You have to stick with it and not give up even when you think it doesn’t matter or might not lead to anything.”

It is possible to turn pleasure into business with the right attitude, a focused goal, and constant preparation. You never know what might happen–it could be magic.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Resume Tips says:

    Khan:

    I have to agree with you about networking — even if you consider yourself a wallflower. It’s best to shake it off and head to the front line. Unfortunately, in many cases it is exactly “who you know,” or even worse, “who you’re related to.” This is especially true in the entertainment industry, as well as most creative industries. Belonging to several organizations and attending events is a great way to network on your personal time and it never hurts to hand out a card or two when you’re out at a club or party and you happen to meet someone that sounds interested in what you do. You never know whom ‘they’ may happen know. Excellent advice Khan!

    Resume to Referral
    Resume and Career Services
    http://www.resumetoreferral.com

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