27 September 2023

Networking mistakes that end in frustration

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Ashley Stahl says networking has changed over the years and for those making contacts with a job change in mind, the traditional ways no longer serve as well.

You wake up, scroll through hiring boards and apply for jobs all day.

In the evening, you put on your professional smile to attend various networking events and have what feels like the exact same conversation on repeat.

The job hunt can become a full-time job and one that you don’t enjoy. I get it. I’ve been there — but it doesn’t have to be that way.

There is a way to network in a manner that doesn’t involve standing in a room, where you feel like you can’t be yourself, spamming people with your business card.

While there are tons of steps I could give you to network properly, let’s focus now on some of the most sabotaging mistakes you may not even realise you’re making.

Telling people you want a job in a specific industry.

“I want a job in the communications industry.”

As great as that may sound, it doesn’t really share what your desired job is.

In order to know where you want to work, you must first know what it is that you want to do.

The industry you work in is the backdrop of what you do, but what’s most important is focusing on the type of job you want, within an industry.

For example: “I’m looking to transition into marketing, ideally in the communications industry.”

Now you’re getting somewhere. Lead with the function of the job you want, and see your industry as a worthwhile mention, not the whole pie.

As a career coach who has seen everyone in her office from opera singers to unhappy lawyers, I can tell you that ‘great careers’ are always changing.

Clarity comes from engagement, not thought, so explore possible functions you’d be interested in, and set up those coffee meetings as an opportunity to learn and explore.

Once clear on the sort of job they want, I advise my clients to make a list of at least 75 organisations and find their potential hiring manager on LinkedIn so they can email a hello note with a copy of their résumé.

This is tedious, but trust me you will be building a network of potential hires or referrals.

Networking only with people you know.

Realise that no one came out of the womb with a Rolodex of contacts in their hands.

You need to take it upon yourself to create a network of opportunities in your own life.

Establishing strong relationships from a standing start is a non-negotiable key ingredient to getting your foot in the right door.

That means taking the emphasis away from people you know like family and friends, and pushing out into the unknown.

Networking with cold contacts is a totally different dance than it is to network with warm ones.

Make a list of people you think would be in a position to support you in landing your dream job, and send them a cold email asking for a quick conversation or coffee.

Remember to always add value to their lives, while asking them about their world.

This could be offering up your connections, insight or whatever becomes relevant in the conversation.

I had a cold networking conversation just the other day, and she needed a dentist referral… I had her covered.

It’s all about creating a spirit of mutual generosity and connection.

Cold networking is for the bold.

It means you stop thinking so much about emails when you hit the send button, and realise those who reply (perhaps 10 per cent) are worth all the effort you put in.

Sending direct messages on LinkedIn.

As a course creator on the topic of careers, I am a major advocate for using LinkedIn for, well, pretty much everything — except for contacting people from whom you’d want a solid result.

LinkedIn is a great place to do your research, display your skills and make a great first impression, but it’s rarely the place where the odds are in your favour to schedule an important chat.

I’ll probably get some heat for saying this, but here’s the deal: Think about where your priorities exist during the workday… Is it in your LinkedIn inbox? No! It’s in your email.

That’s why I recommend you find someone’s email and contact them directly.

With this address, craft an effective cold email. This isn’t the time or place to ask about a job or aimlessly send them your résumé.

Keep it straightforward and quick. Outline where you found them, what it is about them that inspires or intrigued you and then ask to set up a call or meeting.

When you do this, it sets you in a place to build a relationship and open a dialog that may land you an interview if or when a position does open up.

Keep putting contacts out there via email, and trust whoever replies to you is who you’re meant to be networking with.

This process isn’t necessarily easy, but it is effective. You can network in a way that will actually land you interviews for your ideal dream job.

It all starts with ditching the old ways and making small adjustments to pivot you in the right direction.

Step out and into your networking with clarity and the right people.

*Ashley Stahl is a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author. In a previous life she was an award-winning counter-terrorism professional. She can be contacted at Home – Ashley Stahl.

This article first appeared at Forbes.com.

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