ALIA Sydney recently held an event that focused on providing attendees with tips for getting a job. Even if you are not trying to get a new job, one of the key skills you need in today’s world is that of NETWORKING.
Networking requires strategy, research and social grace. But as competition for jobs remains high, it's easy to fumble.
One piece of advice that I heard recently is "Remember that you have two ears and one mouth, and use them in proportion." This is something we often forget.
Networking is about building relationships—not simply selling yourself.
Recruiters that I have spoken to tell me that people have talked to them for only a few minutes, and then asked if they would be the right fit for a position. While I commend these people for at least making the connection, I think that this approach is too aggressive
Here are five networking "don'ts."
1. Don't misuse the Internet.
Some of us (me included) rely too much on email and networking websites such as LinkedIn.com. Nothing beats meeting face to face, however, whether it's over lunch or a cup of coffee, experts say.
We forget that it's very easy to delete an email, or not return a phone call. It's much more difficult to leave a meeting. Most of us remember faces and conversations more than the written word.
Don't send sloppy or mass emails. Take the time to check spelling, especially each name, and tailor each letter to specific recipients based on your shared interests.
Further to Crystals’ recent blog post think before you send an email – would it be easier to pick up the phone, make a call, have a conversation, or organise a meeting?
2. Don't be vague.
Tell network contacts about specific ambitions for your career or professional growth so they know how to support you. Customize your message based on a contact's experience.
We tell people we want to work in libraries – public, academic, government, corporate. Each sector has different skill requirements. Saying you want to work in one or two or even many of these will make it difficult for you to explain to people what you really want. You need to be able to think about your career path, define it and be able to explain it to other librarians, prospective employers, and recruiters clearly and succinctly. Not just in an email but face to face.
3. Don't stop.
Keep networking, even when you're not looking for a job. That way, your network is in place when you do need it. Keep in touch by sending occasional updates about your career interests and accomplishments.
Let people in your network know about your long-term career aspirations, additional training or next steps there might be for you. Let people know you have long term goals and are working towards them, learning as much as you can and adding value in your current role.
4. Don't be selfish.
Networking solely for your own goals is a mistake. Also help your contacts. For example, before a meeting, research a contact's business and its challenges, and offer solutions based on your experience.
Show you have initiative, and that you have an interest in the person you are meeting, and you are not just trying to extract value from them. Demonstrate that you have the skills to do the kind of work required, relevant to the person’s (or the organisation’s) needs.
Helping your contacts connect with each other, and sharing useful information are other ways to provide value.
5. Don't misuse your network.
Distributing your references' contact information too frequently can lead to burnout. And don't abuse your network with too much contact.
There is a polite way to check in, after sending a job application, or after a meeting, . but don't send an email every week badgering the contact person.
Also, be wary of name-dropping. Just because someone is key in an industry, an interviewer may not be impressed. Furthermore, be confident about your references' reputation before distributing their contact information.
Be thoughtful about who you ask for a reference and the timing of your request. Check that circumstances will allow for your referee to have the time to prepare a reference and that he or she is in a position of credibility themselves. Do this in person, at a meeting, or at least in a phone call – not just by email. It helps maintain the contact and reduces the amount of email that can clog our inboxes.
Finally, while including your parents in your network can be helpful; bringing them to an interview is not.
According to a recent survey from staffing firm Adecco, 30% of recent graduates said their parents were involved in their job search, and 3% said their parents have joined interviews.
"This is a parent trying to go too far in helping," says Janette Marx, an Adecco senior vice president. "When it comes time for an interview, parents need to let children stand on their own."
This little rant about networking is drawn from some of what Sarah reported on after the ”top 10 tips for getting that job event” and was influenced by Crystal’s earlier post on email overload. There is clearly overlap and repetition. I make no apologies, but stay firmly convinced many of us need to be seen more and read less – get out there and talk to people, in your team, your libraries, your organisations, your industries. Don’t hide behind the screen. Be seen to be doing the best you can, and making a difference, Ask for guidance or assistance when appropriate – we are all people who are really wanting to reach out to those around us.
Vikki Bell is Principal of Bellinform Research and a member of the ALIA Sydney committee. She can be contacted in the first instance via LinkedIn (!)