Professional Networking is Rarely a Straight Line

Wouldn’t it be great if you could go straight from A to Z in every professional networking encounter? That is, meet person A, develop a rapport, and advance directly to Z, a job lead or really helpful tip–without any delays, digressions, or other distractions? Unfortunately, that’s so seldom the case that I’m doubtful whether it ever actually occurs.

Road to Victory - Golden Winner TrophyProfessional networking is rarely a straight line. Not only that but it doesn’t always take you where you thought you were going, and the prize at the end of a particular networking journey might not be exactly what you expected.

 

Worthwhile Professional Networking

The fact that you might need to meander around the job search/career management jungle rather than going straight to your goal doesn’t mean the journey isn’t worthwhile. It is–or at least, it can be if you approach it the right way.

For starters, you might need to remind yourself that networking doesn’t normally provide a short-term solution for your career needs, although it can help jump-start the process. Patience might be necessary to achieve beneficial results. In other words, you can’t rely 100% on hitting the target in your first attempt (contact). How can you make each journey as productive as possible, without setting up unrealistic expectations that are bound to end in disappointment?

 

Hit Your Target - Bow and Arrow Aimed at Bulls EyeThese are just a few ideas for getting the most from your professional networking, in spite of the fact it doesn’t stick to a straight line:

    • Set multiple goals for your networking activity. One goal could be to line up positive job leads, but don’t count on that as your #1 focus. Think in terms of tangential benefits: What else might be helpful to your job search or career success?
    • Consider the potential long-term benefits of your networking as well. Relationships you establish now might pay off directly or indirectly months or even years down the road, which means you might wait quite a while before you see movement on your go-forward line in that particular situation.
    • Remember the “give to get” philosophy. Be ready and willing to give value before you hope for some value to come your direction. (For a good article on this subject, read “Networking Should Never Operate Like a Vending Machine,” by Ivan Misner.)

No “I” in “TEAM”

I understand that the “no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM'” saying has been around for decades (according to KnowYourPhrase, it’s documented at least as far back as the 1960s).  In the context of your professional networking, the value of this concept is the realization that you probably need multiple resources to conduct a successful job search. Some of those resources can and should be people you’ve gotten to know through your networking activities–and have worked conscientiously at establishing a viable relationship with.

It can be very lonely at times when you’re engaged in a challenging job search, especially if you didn’t build a support team before you started planning and executing your search. Recognizing that you can establish meaningful new relationships and strengthen existing relationships as part of your networking can help you overcome that sense of being too much on your own.

Networking is Not a Dirty Word

business people having coffee break during seminarUnless you make it one in your own mind or by the way you put it into practice. You often can’t tell which path–or divergence from the straight line–will do the most to move you to your ultimate goal, so make networking a positive part of your job search and career management plans. The benefits can range from small to huge. It’s worth the effort, and it certainly doesn’t need to be painful or even uncomfortable. Do it right, and you could find that you’re actually enjoying the journey.

 

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