That “four letter word”: Networking
Jerry Seinfeld said about public speaking, “According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
I think you could replace networking with public speaking in this joke and it would still hit home! Nine out of ten students or alumni that I speak with claim to be poor networkers. But the fact is, statistics from a number of reliable sources, and from my own discussions with alumni and Executive MBA students, attest to the fact that about 80 percent of jobs are filled through the networking process.
Think about your own hiring needs. If you have a position you’re hiring for, aren’t you most likely to put the word out to your network? And aren’t you most likely to at least interview if not hire someone who was referred by someone you know?
So what’s all the fear, apprehension, and dread about? I think, ultimately, it’s about discomfort with speaking to someone you don’t know, and also the anticipation, in the back of your mind, that you’re asking for something from that person.
But the bottom line, as any successful professional will tell you, is that keeping your network alive and active is key to a successful, long-term career! The good news is networking is a learned skill. I’ve worked with students and alumni who read some of the best books on the topic and then just dove right in; in fact, they often come back to me saying they’ve begun to actually enjoy the process. My favorite book is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. If you don’t want to get the book, he has a great website with lots of free tips. Lou Adler of the Adler Group recently posted a terrific article on networking on LinkedIn: Source of Hire and the Importance of Networking.
Whether you’re looking for a job, or just reinforcing, reinvigorating, or doing fundamental maintenance on your career, now is the time to commit to networking regularly. I recommend putting goals on your calendar — for example, make three networking calls per month, and one networking lunch, dinner, or meeting over coffee or drinks per month. Go ahead: Commit today! You’ll be on the way to building a better career.