I work with smart, talented people every day who are seeking new employment. Many of them are introverts and the thought of networking fills them with discomfort, if not downright fear. I’m not a huge fan of it myself, and I’m rather extroverted. The good news, I always tell them, is that the secret to networking is really quite simple. In my mind, I see two ways anyone can build a great network.
First, recognize that we are all human, and we all have personal relationships. Yes, we have family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and the list goes on. We know how to build relationships. The trick in my mind, is to constantly nurture those relationships. Keep in touch with the people in your life. Whether it’s an occasional coffee, drinks after work, email updates, or these days – a LinkedIn or Facebook comment. Stay connected. Some of the folks I work with have been so busy working long hours, that they’ve failed to stay current with others. Now, as they begin their job search, it feels like an insurmountable effort to reconnect with people when there is a need for their help connecting with a potential employer.
“Well, Andrea, that’s all fine and good, but you’re an extrovert and this all takes time”, they tell me. Yes, it does, but not really all that much time. And, at the end of the day, what’s more important to you? Your job that might lay you off without warning, or nurturing relationships with the people in your life? Doesn’t the latter enrich your life anyway, whether you consider the job hunt or not? Try it. Just once a day, send a quick note to someone, anyone, and in a month, you’ll have nurtured 30 relationships.
Second, much of what I’m describing doesn’t involve leaving your home. Networking doesn’t have to be the face-to-face mob of people trying to strike up conversations. While that certainly is one way, it isn’t the only way. Nothing instills fear in me like walking into a room of total strangers. So, I’m with you on this one. These days, technology allows us to make connections more easily. Get online, connect with people you know. Build your LinkedIn network, friend people you know on Facebook. Send emails to people you’ve lost touch with. It really is that simple!
Try it. Start today. You’ll be surprised how many people will be delighted you’ve reached out. I have a phenomenal network. It wasn’t built in a day. It’s been nurtured for more than 30 years. Thirty years of being a friend, colleague, neighbor. You CAN do this.