Pearson's declassified networking survival guide
What is the most important part of the college experience? This part is the key to landing jobs, opportunities, and professional and personal relationships. The answer to this question lies beyond the classroom through a concept that you have probably heard before called networking.
The word networking is thrown around so often, especially in the college setting, but what does the word even mean and what does it have to do with you? Networking is much more than collecting business cards. If you are new to networking keep reading to crystallize this abstract idea. If you aren’t new to networking, don’t go anywhere because I have tips that can help you completely rethink your approach!
What is networking?
To understand networking, we must first bust some myths and consider what networking is not. Networking is not self-promotion. Meeting people is not your opportunity to brag about yourself. Networking is also not using people or viewing them as resources you use upon request. Viewing others as a resource you use and forget will play into the myth that networking is cheap and unauthentic. On the contrary, networking is about building a community. The idea that someone knows someone else that you should know perfectly embodies the idea of networking. When we network, we are building community, not a list of contacts.
How do I network?
Although it may seem like there is a series of complex steps and calculated scripts to approach networking, it is much simpler. Best-selling author Isaac Serwanga put it best into three simple steps to take by using your wishbone, jawbone, and backbone.
The wish bone represents your dreams. Consider what it is that you want and who can help you attain that goal.
The jawbone focuses on your competency and humility of your speech. Do the necessary research on your industry and know what you are talking about. Prove that you are competent but recognize that you have room for improvement or more knowledge through humility. Consider incorporating a 49/51 rather than a 50/50 relationship when networking where you set yourself aside to humbly be helped and learn from others.
Perhaps the most important component is persistence. The most common word that you will hear in networking is often ‘no’. Hearing ‘no’ is not always a good feeling, especially when building the courage to make new connections, but having the backbone to persist is the only way to fully reap the benefits of networking.
Where and when do I network?
The beauty of networking is that it is not a phenomenon confined to the virtual walls of LinkedIn or the physical walls of networking events and professional conferences. Author Keith Ferrazzi’s advice to “never eat alone” embodies the prevalence of networking in our everyday life. Building community starts with a conversation and we can start conversations anywhere from the grocery store to the elevator. Approach others with Bill Nye’s idea that “everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t,” so always be prepared to be amazed.
Connect and start conversations even with those that you believe may not be able to help you in your goals. Odds are, they may know someone that you should know, or you may know someone that they should know. And reach out to the people that you are already connected with to strengthen those relationships. Continually work to build and strengthen your network so it will be there when you need it.