I know many people hate networking. Hate. It. They feel uncomfortable promoting themselves to others, and many won't even do it when they're desperate for a job. But if these tough times have taught us one thing, it's that if you don't network, someone else will. And, they'll be the ones to get promotions, new jobs and opportunities you'll miss because you're still whining how you don't like to network.
Networking is here to stay. Get used to it. Do it when you're unemployed, do it when you're employed and do it at your kid's soccer game. Just do it.
As you can tell, I feel pretty strongly about the subject. It was the focus on my latest column for Gannett...
You may think that once you land a job you don’t have to sell yourself to others anymore, that your days of trying to establish connections with strangers is over and you can finally just settle down to doing a job and earning a paycheck.
Wrong, wrong and wrong.
The truth is that in this job market, no one should give up the skills they developed while searching for work. Instead, you should keep those abilities honed and ready for use in your new position.
“You’ve got to realize that networking inside a company is just as important as when you were networking on the outside trying to get in,” says Thom Singer, a professional speaker and business consultant who often advises others on networking and communication skills.
While your focus when landing a job was on proving you had the necessary experience and could hit the ground running, you need a different game plan in your first days and weeks in a new job. A recent OfficeTeam survey found that 32 percent of workers said that becoming used to a different corporate culture and colleagues would “pose the greatest challenge” when re-entering the workforce after unemployment.
“You want to reach out to people, and ask them for their help. Make them an ally – show that you want to collaborate and you’re not a threat to them,” Singer says. “This is where you make it about other people. You ask them to show you the ropes.”
And never – never – he says, tell others: “This is how we did it at my last company.” You should not, he says, have the attitude that you’re going to jump in and fix all the problems.
Some may consider this confusing advice. After all, doesn’t the new boss need to see that you’re hot stuff and he made the right decision in giving you the job?
Singer says it’s equally important to a manager that a new employee mesh with the existing team.
“Most bosses are very aware of what’s going on. They know who is helping who,” Singer says. “So, you show you’re inclusive by saying that you worked on something with Mary. They’re going to know who did the work and who was willing to share the credit.”
At the same time, taking such steps may help protect your job in the long run. “When companies make cuts, it’s a lot harder to let go of someone who is popular and well-liked as opposed to the loner,” Singer says.
How else can a new worker forge strong in-house ties? Some ideas:
· Recognize the power brokers. Of course you need to impress managers, but don’t forget that many employees without important titles hold key positions. Be friendly to office managers, receptionists, mail room clerks and IT personnel who can help you navigate office politics, provide insight into the company culture and smooth your way in everything from getting office supplies to having a computer glitch fixed.
· Say “yes.” “If you get invited to lunch or out after work, don’t say you have too much work, but find a way to go,” Singer says. “It’s important to your career that you become part of the group, and if you turn them down, they may just stop asking. Then you’re always going to be seen as an outsider.”
· Walk the halls. Don’t confine yourself to becoming friendly with only those in your department. Be friendly and introduce yourself to others in the organization, even if you’re only passing them in the hallway. “It’s very smart to have ties that run throughout a company. That way, if your department has cuts, you could always try and make a lateral move,” Singer says. “That’s going to be much easier if you know other people in those departments.”
Finally, for those who think they can slack off on their networking now that they have a job, Singer has some advice. "Don’t make the mistake of letting your network disappear. In this economy, there are no guarantees,” he says.