There are a multitude of areas where you need and use networking, from your job search to giving back to your community; and you may already be networking without realizing it. Read below to understand how networking works in everyday situations, and how to make it work for you.
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Networking is Not a Dirty Word

You walk into a room filled with people. You look left. You look right. All you see are dozens of people wearing "Hi, My Name is ____" badges. You panic. You want to run and hide. "I don't want to make small talk with these strangers," you cry to yourself. But alas, you're here, at the dreaded networking event. Anxiety sets in. You want to go home and never go to another networking event again.

It doesn't have to be this way. We all make excuses for not networking: "I don't want to sell myself," "I don't want to impose on anyone," "It feels sleazy," "I hate small talk." There are many more excuses, but they all miss the point: Networking is a valuable tool that enhances your job search, your career advancement, and enables you to find a satisfying and rewarding career path and more. Overcoming the resistance to networking is crucial to your career, job search, and life.

Why Does Networking Matter?

In every area of your professional life, having colleagues, mentors, advocates and/or teachers benefits you. These individuals make up your network. They offer insight into challenges, connections with other professionals, an "inside" perspective of an organization or support during a crisis. There are a multitude of areas where you need and use networking, from your job search to giving back to your community; and you may already be networking without realizing it. Read below to understand how networking works in everyday situations, and how to make it work for you.

Networking is Essential to Your Job Search

This use of networking is one that we're most familiar with. Whether you are unemployed or want a move from your current employer to a new organization, the assistance of others is critical. When hundreds of resumes are submitted for one position, having a personal endorsement or recommendation can get you the interview. Differentiating yourself from a pool of resumes shows your value to a potential employer. Also, when you speak directly with the hiring authority, as opposed to Human Resources or a Recruiter, you get an inside track to the hiring process.

Networking in this case starts with letting your close friends and family know you're in the job market and clearly defining for them what type of work you're looking for and the people you'd like to meet. Then, you ask for an introduction or contact information with permission to use them as a referral.

Making new contacts are much easier when your friend Bob connects you: "Mr. X, my colleague Bob encouraged me to call you to discuss Widgets International. I would appreciate a few minutes to talk to you about your company and my experience." With each contact, be sure to follow-up with a request for additional contacts as well as with a thank you note.

The networking naysayer is thinking: "I don't want to impose on Bob. Why would he want to connect me with his colleague? I don't have any connections useful for him." The networking pro knows that any connection is a valuable connection, whether or not you receive an immediate benefit. Most people enjoy connecting people they respect with others, and view the introduction as an opportunity to provide benefits for two people at once. It reflects well on the referrer…if it's a good match, everyone involved is thankful for the referrer's awareness and kindness.

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