When a boy ignores my request to be his friend online my mind races in an attempt to justify it, maybe he’s too poor to have a computer or maybe he just doesn’t like me?
Then, after I get over my annoyance at his scant online presence, I start to think it’s kinda rad. Now, he’s mysterious. He is simultaneously cool AND hot. I’ll have to find out what his favourite foods are the old-fashioned way; by asking him! Networking is like dating, it’s harder than ‘poking’ them on Facebook.
I spoke to Jessie, who is the MD of a media agency in Sydney about her tips for networking and growing relationships.
Sam: It is widely acknowledged that networking can land you a job. But how can you network with people without it feeling inauthentic or like you are using them [to get a job]?
Jessie: I totally understand having a dislike to the word “networking.” You’re right that it sounds transactional and cringey.
But the rule, I think, is that you should never network with the motive of only doing so because you think you’re going to get something out of it. This is not how networking works. Most people are pretty intuitive and will be able to see through those who are “using” them.
Sam: But what if you ARE growing your network to one day get a job?
Jessie: If that’s the case than I think you should be offering to help them in some way. Make the dynamic of the relationship a two-way-street. For example, say it was a website like yours that I wanted to work for. I wouldn’t just email you and ask you for coffee, I would email you and say that I want to write a piece for free.
I’d write something no one asked me to write and then share it with people who you want to write for.
If they like it, they might publish it and it might open the door to talk to them in a networking capacity. The dynamic of the relationship is really what you make of it.
Sam: How do you recommend people track down a ‘network’?
Jessie: I took a grassroots approach by just individually seeking out people whose work I liked and who I wanted to meet. I think this should come from a genuine interest in the person and their work, though.
Sam: A lot of people we talk to feel like they can’t get bridge the gap from meeting someone at an event, or emailing them – to getting a job. How do you suggest people make a good connection beyond the event?
Jessie: First, stop thinking that everyone you meet is someone you can get a job out of. If you’re too desperate, you’re not a very attractive person to network with; and this comes across in the way you put yourself out there.
Second, follow up on connections that you make. If you exchange business cards, send a follow-up email within the first few days with a reference to where and how you met.
Make sure to personalise the email – for example, if you spoke about their favourite breed of dog or their last holiday to Sri Lanka, or their plans to go to learn to surf, make a reference to it. Don’t send off a whole bunch of “pro forma” emails.
Third, be courteous and polite. I have had numerous experiences of people contacting me with no introduction (no reference to where they met me or how they got my contact details) and launch straight into “can you give me some advice”; not only is this abrupt and affronting, it also gives me absolutely no context of their background, their desires or ambitions.
Finally, follow up with a thank you. A simple response thanking them for their time is an absolute courteous minimum.
Sam: Being shy or lacking confidence isn’t conducive to networking. How can you build relationships if you don’t consider yourself a people person?
Jessie: It is also not about being the most outgoing person in the room. Networking is most effectively when done when you make a true connection with someone and usually it takes some level of individual attention and communication.
Sam: I really like your tip about sending a personalised thank you notes, I’ve actually done this myself a few times. You are uber successful, what career advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Jessie: Ten years ago I would advise myself to commit to the first couple of years as an information-gathering period, and to try not to put too much pressure on figuring out if a job is the “right thing.” I would encourage fresh-to-the-workforce me to pay attention, work hard, and keep finding your people.
Footnoters. I want some intel from you. Would you like industry specific resume or career advice? If so, can you email me and I will track down the right person for an interview.
I just need you to tell me what stage of life you are at (for example, university, early career or mid-career) and what kind of insight you are after.