The ABC of networking

On the job 'networking' is a career advancer

According to the CollegeJournal website, people aren’t fussy about where they network to advance their career — even at funerals.

It’s intriguing to ponder whether such people actually target funerals with good networking potential.

Regardless of where you do your networking, most experts agree it’s important because of the job prospects networking provides.

Companies can save money from filling vacancies through networks rather than advertising, but there’s are also other benefits. According to the Stanford Alumni Association website, it’s to do with qualities that are hard to discern from a resume — things like how you deal with crises, your response to other managers and how you deal with opportunities and disappointments.

“That's why most organisations look first at people they know and people who come recommended by people they know when it comes time to hire someone,” the article says.

The association says that by the time you see a job advertised online or in the paper, it’s often close to being filled.

“Networking gives you an earlier chance at an opportunity, at a time when you can still help shape the job description and influence the level and pay range of the position.”

So how do you network? The article on the association’s website says that a company's employees are among the best sources of referrals.

Start with people you know (your A Group) and ask about and get referrals to people your contacts think will be relevant resources for you (your B group). The people in the B Group may not know of any specific job opportunities, but the article says they might provide information that will be useful and they can also introduce you to other B contacts and to, you guessed it, C Group contacts.

“The C group consists of people who could hire you if a need existed in their company and you seemed to be qualified.”

The article says a phone call will usually suffice to set up a meeting with an A group person, while for a B or C Group person an approach letter, followed by a phone call to set up an appointment, is usually a more effective and appropriate method of contact.

This can all sound daunting if you’re not confident meeting strangers. But the Indianapolis Star has a few hints to make it easier. Writing in the Star Elizabeth McKinley quotes a corporate trainer as suggesting you develop a verbal business card to introduce yourself in 10 seconds and use active verbs to explain what you do.

“Don't say: I'm in IT. Do say: I help workers understand their computer software.”

You should also be prepared to get out of your comfort zone.

“Join meetings, attend industry events and meet co-workers in other departments. Work on meeting new people and expanding your network.”

Don’t forget to follow up too. “Return every phone call and send hand-written notes when appropriate.”

Another thing to remember is that networking doesn’t just mean networking outside of your organisation.

An article on the Network Services & Consulting Corporation website says if you are employed, you might very have easy access to one of the best networks available. Writer Rita Fisher is talking about "inside" networking — networking within your current company or organisation.

If it’s hard to see the point of networking inside your own company, says the benefits include the fact it allows active involvement in company decision making processes (giving an insight into how decisions are made and responsibility for the success of projects involving that team).

“You will have access to a huge network of like-minded professionals who are also interested in advancing their career, participating in special projects and learning new skills,” she says.

You’ll also be on top of industry happenings and company networks also regularly offer skill-building opportunities through seminars, professional training sessions, and mentor relationships.

“Take advantage of all of them to advance your career and expand your knowledge base.”

Mills is a Dunedin-based writer. She can be contacted at kirstin_mills@idg.co.nz.

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