You might be wondering why I’m telling you in the title of this article to stop networking. Isn't that what every job seeker is supposed to do all day long??

Networking has become synonymous with just handing out business cards and hoping someone will give you a job, and this is why so many people hate it and avoid it. This is a very powerless way to approach a job search. I want to put the power back in your hands and reveal what it means to make true connections and how it can make all the difference in your career. So if you’ve ever been told to network but don’t know what that means, this article is for you.

The most successful job seekers view networking as an opportunity to connect with others to share useful information and resources. So if it works better for you, stop calling it networking and start viewing it as simply connecting. If you don’t like to ask for help and therefore avoid networking, this is great news for you. Networking isn’t about asking for help, it’s about people helping each other.

Effective networking is not just focused on getting a job either. Solely focusing on that places too much pressure on your contact and the relationship you hope to build with them. Focus on gathering information that can improve your approach and increase your visibility.

When you are networking (or connecting!), you want to share some of your target companies with the other person to enrich the conversation and see if they have any connections at that company. Even if they don’t, they may be able to recommend other companies to add to your list, or ones to avoid.

Here are your goals in having conversations and connecting with others:

  1. To solicit advice on a career path (if changing fields or industries)
  2. To discover the names of others who may also be able to help you
  3. To uncover job listings not advertised (the hidden job market!)
  4. To gain insights about a company or position before submitting your application
  5. To expand your network over the long term

Notice how not one of those objectives was to ask for a job. Now, inevitably it will lead to that. You’re going to uncover useful information that will lead to job prospects or introductions to hiring managers and so on. Don’t feel like you’re wasting your time if you don’t get right to the point and ask for a job. You’re not. All of these five objectives will support you in finding a job.

So, here’s one more bonus tip as well. Make every effort to connect with someone at your companies of interest before you apply for the job. Connecting with someone before you apply offers a lot of benefits. First, you have the opportunity to ask questions and hopefully gain some insights about the position. You can use this information to further tailor your resume to the job before you submit it. Not a bad idea, right?

Second, you want to establish a rapport with the recruiter or whomever you are speaking with if they don’t already know you. Likability is important. You want to stay "top of mind" with the person you are communicating with. Having an initial rapport with them is always helpful. But the bottom line is this, if you do know someone at a company you are applying to, you should contact them before you apply. They have the most ability to help you at that point, not after the fact. And most of all, if they are going to formally refer you, they may send you through a different channel rather than applying online. Sometimes companies have a special process for referrals. Ask the person who works there what the protocol is and how they recommend that you apply in order to be considered a referral.

Overall, networking is best when viewed as part of your long-term job search strategy. That means that the best connections are the ones you already made a long time ago. So, start today and you’ll be glad tomorrow!
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