Networking isn't about what others can do for you, but what you can do for other people.
I always thought networking meant that I would meet people and ask them to help me meet other people or find a job. Boy was I wrong! Several years ago, a friend told me that no one liked me at an association I was an active member of. That felt like a slap in the face. How could they not like me? This so-called friend said, “All you ever do is ask for help. You don’t care whether or not you can help them.” I’ll be honest, that was pretty accurate. I was only focused on if they could introduce me to someone else. This is the simple secret of networking: It isn’t about how others can help you, it’s about how you can help others.
I was able to change my ways, but it took a long, long time. How did I change my mindset? I realized it starts in the workplace. If your colleague is swamped, do you offer to help him or her get caught up? Are you willing to be a team member and stay late so that the other person will be able to finish the tasks sooner? I know that everyone wants to get out of the office and head home, but think about the brownie points that you earn by helping your colleague. He or she will be more likely to help you when the situation is reversed. More importantly, your colleague will see you in a different light, which is that you’re a team player. Do you want to help others or are you fixated only on yourself? How many of you fall into this category? (It happens to the best of us.) The key is whether or not you can see it and are willing to change your behavior.
Simply ask your co-workers, “What can I do to help you?” Even more, do this in all walks of your life. Often, the person will be startled that you’re even asking. It doesn’t matter if he or she has something for you to do or not; it’s the simple task of offering assistance that changes how people look at you.
So many people live their lives going to work, taking care of kids or parents, shopping for groceries, dating, doing laundry. The list goes on and on. Many of us don’t feel that we have the time to network. That is all well and fine until you find yourself back in the job search. For old timers, we think it’s a piece of cake and that we can find the next job very easily. However, it isn’t so easy anymore. With the internet, the number of applicants for positions has become staggering. We’re no longer limited by geography.
I’ve watched some people be puzzled as to why they haven’t landed a job as of yet. Some refuse to get business cards. Let me spell this out to you: get business cards! Why? Because when you meet people, you need to have a way for them to contact you. You also need to ask for their business card so that you can contact them. You can get 500 business cards for about $10 online, or you can make them at home. Either way, you need to have a way to share your information and show that you’re a true professional.
What about social media? Do you have a LinkedIn profile? You should. Remember, this isn’t the same as Facebook; this is your professional social media profile that people look at when they meet a candidate or hear about one. Make sure that it’s kept up to date. Don’t choose a profile picture that you would also use on Facebook. As you go to dental conferences and events, collect business cards and ask to connect with them on LinkedIn. Use your computer and not your phone to do this. Why? Because on the mobile version, you can’t send a personalized note with the invitation.
These are all ways to brand yourself and let people know that you’re in the job market. After all, sometimes it’s who you know and not what you know that may open the next opportunity for you.
If you have stories about networking, please email me at email@example.com.