Demystifying Social Networking For Your Clients
As employment counsellors we all agree about the need to network, but why do so many job seekers dread the thought of networking? Clients have all sorts of concerns behind their fear of networking. Some that I have heard are: “I’m new to this country,” “I don’t know what to say,” and “I am shy.” Many think of social networking as an awkward way of meeting people in business suits and talking about complex ideas. Through my years of career counselling, I’ve learned that to help clients start networking I must help them demystify their own thoughts about it.
A common misconception is that begging, bothering, and networking mean the same thing. I help clients understand that these are different actions with very different outcomes. I explain that networking is not always about asking someone for something. In fact, if they are only asking and not giving, they are not networking at all. Networking is a two-way street with both sides taking and giving.
According to Diane Darling, author of The Networking Survival Guide, networking is building relationships before you need them. So I encourage my clients to create an inventory with the names of people with whom they would like to reconnect and send them an email. The sole purpose of this interaction is to rebuild relationships. The idea here is to grow their human capital, so they will have good relationships in place before asking for help. Darling also suggests a good way to build and maintain networks is to present people with a sincere offer of something you can do for them.
A simple group exercise, which I use during my networking workshops, is to ask participants to share information they think others may know – it could be job leads, events in the community, or even the name of their favourite restaurant. Within minutes, people are excited about exchanging information in a friendly, stress-less way. At the end of the exercise, clients are surprised to learn that they were networking, and most feel empowered because others validated their sharing and ideas. This activity busts their impression that networking conversations are tense and boring.
I also coach my clients in the basics of social networking including elevator speeches, calling cards, handshakes, follow-ups, thank-you notes, and so on. But my main goal is to help them identify the day-to-day opportunities and interactions that could potentially lead to successful connections. Helping a neighbour, a friend, or even a complete stranger could result in their next job lead or even their next job.
My favourite example – one I share with my clients – is from my own experience when I was a new immigrant. During a chat with a stranger while waiting for a bus, I found out about a job lead that later turned into my first job in Canada. My second job was one I found through networking with a friend.
Networking activities won’t always happen when people are wearing business suits. Social networking can happen anywhere and lead to extraordinary changes in our clients’ lives. My goals are to support them in maintaining a positive outlook during their job-search journey, and help them get as many people as they can on their side. I’ll finish by saying that people on networking lists are like trees in an orchard: if they aren’t taken care of, there won’t be any fruit to harvest.
Want to learn more? Here is a handy book summary of The Networking Survival Guide. (pdf)