Many people are prompted to pay attention to networking when they’re in or about to start a job search, but the rest of the time, networking gets put on a back burner. Not only is this self-centered (perhaps somewhat understandably) but also it is short-sighted. Say you land your new job and don’t “need” your network for quite a while. Is there any reason to tap into it or interact with those in it?
Well, yes. Actually, there could be more than one reason to network outside the confines of a job search.
One reason is that you should be nurturing your network as an insurance policy in case you end up needing to look for a new job, maybe sooner than you expected. Of course, this is still on the self-centered side of the equation, but it’s a valid point.
By the same token, you could have shorter-term needs that people in your network could help with. An example would be if you’re scheduled to deliver a presentation to a major client and don’t have direct access to a key source of critical information. If you know someone in your network who either has that access or can help you get it, that’s a potentially big deal, and you can’t expect the individual to be responsive if you haven’t maintained a good relationship.
When you maintain a two-way network, everyone stands to win. In other words, you should make an effort to reach out to people in your network when you learn about something that might interest or help them. I’m talking about more than the usual recommendation to send someone a link to an article you read on a subject of possible interest to them (although you can certainly do that).
For example, you might learn that a connection in your network is involved in planning a big charity event. If you have skills or knowledge that could be useful to him/her, you can extend an offer of help. Whether or not the person decides to accept your offer, it’s a safe bet the offer will be remembered favorably. It brands you as a giver and not just a taker.
An article on The Daily Muse titled “How Your Network Can Help You Be Better at Your Job” touches on this aspect of networking outside a job search. Author Sara McCord says, “if you only reach out to people during times of career transition, you’re wasting a valuable resource for your professional development” and then she describes “five easy ways your contacts can help you excel at your current gig—and how to reach out the right way.” [Emphasis added.]
Remember: People usually like to be needed; it makes them feel good. However, they do not like to be taken for granted or “used” as if they were a disposable commodity. This is true regardless of what rung you’re occupying on the ladder to job and career success.