“Pulling a good network together takes effort, sincerity and time.”
– Alan Collins
I used to not like networking at all. I always felt like I was putting on some sort of show. I dressed up in a suit, talked to strangers about what I wanted to do with my life, hoping that maybe, just maybe, they would offer me a job. I felt like I was trying to force a friendship on people that I had only known for a few minutes.
I didn’t realize it then, but my mindset was completely wrong.
The goal of networking is to not talk to people one minute and then never talk to them again. Networking is not a transaction, it’s about building relationships. After I switched around my mindset, I started to understand more and more what it meant to truly network with people.
1. Networking Takes Effort
I remember my senior year of college when I first started trying to build a network, I was exhausted. I emailed and emailed, set up as many informational interviews as I could — all with the thought in the back of my mind that none of it could pay off.
I learned that it’s often not about how many people you connect with, but how you follow up with the ones who you do meet.
The box isn’t checked after you meet someone. You need to take the effort to follow up with them, ideally within 24 hours. If they connect you to someone new, follow up again after you meet them. If they help you get an interview, follow up again to let them know how it went. Follow up, always. The effort you spend there will pay off.
Why? Because it makes people remember you, which in turn, makes all of your efforts more worthwhile. Who knows? Maybe someone you followed up with after an event way back when will let you know about a secret job opening. (It happened to me.)
2. Networking Takes Sincerity
So many times I’ve seen people put on a front in order to present to the person what they think the person wants to hear. In order to build and develop some sort of relationship with someone, you need to be honest and genuine. Sincerity is an interpersonal factor strongly associated with trust, and creating a sense of trust is one of the keys to building a sustainable relationship.
Talk to people about what you are interested in doing. Create a brand or mission statement for yourself that can help guide the conversation. Ask them questions about what they do and how they’ve gotten to where they are now. Be genuinely curious and authentic to who you are and what you want.
3. Networking Takes Time
I used to get frustrated because networking took so much time. I just wanted to be able to talk to someone and then have them offer me a job the next day. Unfortunately, that’s just not how the world works (for the most part).
Again, networking is not a one-time transaction. A huge part of it is continually following up with people, even if it is to share an interesting article about something pertaining to their industry, or keeping them updated about what is going on in your life. Things generally won’t happen overnight, but if you continue to cultivate your relationships over time, people will remember you.
In order to network, you need to put yourself out there. It’s not going to be easy for everyone, but it is necessary for everyone. Although networking involves a little luck, if you aren’t putting yourself out there in the first place, you aren’t going to succeed. You have to push through the muck, enjoy the people that you are building relationships with, and eventually you’ll stumble across something gold. Go on and get out there!