Q: There is a lot of talk around networking. What exactly is your definition of networking? What is a good networker and what is a bad networker? How can networking help my career? What are some of your networking tips?
A: Networking is critical to any job search. Even beyond your job search, networking is a valuable relationship building tool.
I define networking as building meaningful relationships. Strong relationships have many benefits. Personal and professional contacts can be the basis for job leads or introductions to companies or people who may be interested in hiring you (or your firm). Here are my networking tips:
- Focus on the conversation and the other party during your meeting or your call. Put away your phone or laptop for that period of time. Limit distractions.
- Listen to what the other person does professionally. How could they benefit from any of your contacts? Honestly, you also want to ensure that they would reflect positively on you, if you referred them to a contact in the future.
- Ask good questions. Ask probing questions about their job search or their business.
- Be respectful of the other person’s time. If they have scheduled your call for 30 minutes, stick to that schedule.
- A big turnoff in networking is when only one person talks about themselves. If I have a call with another business owner and they talk for 30 minutes and never ask me about my business, that is a ginormous red flag. However, if I meet with a job seeker, usually the conversation should be tilted in their favor. But if I meet a job seeker at Panera, they should offer to pick up the cost of my coffee. Manners matter.
- I believe a good networker never stops networking. Just because a job seeker has landed a job does not mean that this person should stop networking. I believe building a professional network is a long-term strategy, vs. a shorter-term strategy of just landing a new opportunity. I recall asking a sales rep in the Cambridge area how he landed a new role so quickly after his company dissolved. His response: “I have never stopped networking.” Good advice!
Finally, if you have invited another person to meet with you and they meet with you (by phone or face-to-face), send a thank-you email or note. Again, manners matter!
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.