Step aside social media, AI and videos – the hottest trend in job-seeking and recruitment in 2017 is networking. It is not any new phenomenon but it comes in a new format. What is new about networking and how do networks benefit all of us – employers, job-seekers and experts?
What does networking mean?
Networking is intertwined with everything else we do: it means meeting people every day and being present in all those situations where we meet (new) people. Our networks consist of all the people who we meet – either face to face or in virtual environments – more or less frequently.
What is new about networking?
Previously, networks were largely made up of people whose hands we shook around a meeting table. As (working) life is entering the digital era, it is wonderful that ideas can be exchanged even with people who would have been impossible to meet in the past – due to, say, the physical distance.
This is why networking is also bolder than before. It is easier to approach interesting experts on LinkedIn by sending them a polite contact request than it is to set up a lunch with people whose calendars are already full.
I do not mean that face-to-face meetings are unproductive or that virtual meetings can replace all the situations where people sit around a single table. However, the fact is that digitalization has opened doors to a world where meetings are possible regardless of time and place, even with people who we would otherwise never meet.
How can we increase the quality of our networks?
Quality is an interesting concept when it comes to networks. What is a high-quality network like? Is it even possible to know beforehand what types of contacts and meetings may later offer added value or joy? The idea of screening a network using high quality criteria seems strange.
What you consider to be important in networking may be trivial in a couple of years.
Networking should be understood as a long-term activity, not as a brief project related to job-seeking, increased visibility or service sales. At best, networks are life-long joint ventures of different individuals where people interact with one another and bonds between people grow stronger or weaker according to needs and situations.
Networking seems unnatural because I want to stay out of the spotlight. How can I make an impression and be remembered?
Making yourself and your skills visible is essential. If you are not seen or heard or other people do not know that you exist, you and your skills do not exist in the eyes of potential customers, partners, job-seekers or employers. However, networking is more than making yourself visible.
As much as it is about being yourself and making your ideas seen and heard, networking is about listening and supporting other people and taking them into account.
Similarly to any other interaction between people, networking is also a team sport. You can get the most out of networks by being active and talking and doing together.
Do not only think about networks from your own point of view. Instead, think about how you could help others with your skills. Would you be able to take part in a professional conversation to which you have a lot to give? Would you be able to offer peer support to other job-seekers?
You can decide how much you can get out of your network: you will get exactly as much as you are ready to give.