How to Network: 7 Ways to Give, Not Just Receive

Are you reluctant to make networking a bigger part of your job search because you're scared that no one will want to meet with you? Think giving, not taking. Here are seven reasons why your contacts actually want to hear from you.

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Tue, October 26, 2010

CIO — One of the reasons you may not like to network is because, in asking others for help with a job search, you feel you're imposing on your contacts (and their contacts). But viewing networking as an imposition demonstrates several common misconceptions about the practice: that only one person benefits from the exchange; that job seekers have nothing to give to the people with whom they're networking; and that the people being contacted dont want to meet or see the job seeker.

In fact, says Ford Myers, president of career coaching firm Career Potential, just the opposite is true. The benefits of networking often extend to all parties involved. Networking meetings and phone calls can be as beneficial for the contact as they are for the job seeker, says Myers.

"When done properly, networking is not about taking but giving," he says.

In his book, Get the Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring (Wiley 2009), Myers seeks to allay the concerns and clear up the misconceptions of reluctant networkers. He shares seven reasons why people want to network with you.

1. Your contacts want to learn from your approach to networking. People with whom you want to network may secretly be searching for a new job, and they may be just as nervous about requesting networking meetings and phone calls as you are, Myers notes. By agreeing to meet with you, your contacts see how you initiate and conduct these important conversations.

2. Your contacts want to pick your brain. If you're out and about networking, you're likely talking to a lot of people and learning about specific companies and industries, says Myers. In fact, you may be privy to insider information to which someone who's employed might not have access, he adds. Your contacts realize that because you're talking to so many people, you might have information about their industry or competitors that would be useful to them.

3. Your contacts want to help you. Imagine that! Helping others gives many people a tremendous amount of satisfaction, says Myers. Some do it completely selflessly, others do it hoping that the good karma will come back to them. Whatever their motivation, it's good for you.

4. Networking gives your contacts an ego boost. Asking someone in your network to meet with you demonstrates to that individual that you value and respect his or her advice and view that person as important, says Myers. Your request to speak with people in your network makes them feel good about themselves and makes them realize they are knowledgeable and have something to offer.

5. You can offer someone a break from their routine. Your e-mail or phone call requesting a networking meeting might just catch your recipient when he or she is bored. Stepping out for a cup of coffee with you provides your contact with welcome relief from their daily grind, says Myers.

6. You may help someone repay a favor to a mutual contact. If you request a meeting with someone who's been referred to you by a direct connection, this person may be glad to have a way to return a favor to your mutual connection. "They may be very happy to do this favor for the person," says Myers.

7. Your contacts often know what you're going through. People who have been through a tough job search may be even more willing to help you in whatever way they can because they empathize so closely with your situation. You're giving these contacts a satisfying way to share whatever lessons were learned during their job searches.

Meridith Levinson covers Careers, Project Management and Outsourcing for CIO.com. Follow Meridith on Twitter @meridith. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Meridith at mlevinson@cio.com.

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