Networking is not to be covert. It is to be open, encouraging, exciting and empowering. Networking is a massive component to career management. However, you need to be acutely aware of some of the myths that pervade this important tool in your job search and career management toolbox.
Myth #1. You should only network when you are looking for a job.
I’ll be gentle in the words used in this statement. Networking should be embraced throughout your career, even when gainfully employed. You are a product, and you need to get that product to market, create awareness about yourself, and heighten your brand. Corporations never stop marketing their product, so why should you? Yes, it is acceptable to slow down your networking efforts when employed, but don’t halt them altogether. My philosophy as an executive career management practitioner is the day you start your next job is the day you need to start your next job search. Embrace it.
Myth #2. Let the person know you are looking for a job.
Purposeful dialogue is vital to networking. However, it’s wrong to overtly let the person know you are looking for a job in the first few sentences. Don’t parade around events with the label “Job Seeker” on your forehead. Focus on opening up constructive conversation and giving before taking, leading to the other person asking you about your ambitions.
Myth #3. Professional events are the only networking opportunity.
Oh no, not true! Yes, there are many professional events, but life is full of other opportunities at which to network. Faith-based organizations, social clubs, charitable, community, and trade events are good places to connect with a diverse population, meet new people, give and share, and foster relationships.
Myth #4. Introverts can’t network.
Introverts tend to shy away from noisy, group-based environments and social situations where formal networking can make them feel uncomfortable. However, you don’t need to love working a room, hoping that someone will hear your life story, to successfully network. If you are shy, take advantage of those innate skills to network. Introverts are good listeners and often want to connect with and get to know people if the setting is somewhat low-key and quiet. At an event, introverts should work around the outside of a room before circling inside. They should take a friend with them to be at their side. Choose networking venues that are well suited to your interests. Avoid large conferences and noisy networking events which could overwhelm you.
Myth #5. You must create an eloquent elevator pitch.
You don’t have to have an eloquent elevator speech to successfully network. However, you can devise and practice a short persuasive speech based on your name, what you do, what you are looking for, and how you can help others, concluding again with your name. Hone this message and try to add a humorous and resonating section.
In summary, networking is about relationship building and management. Be comfortable in exchanging ideas and information once a strong connection has been established.