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Professional Networking
The #1 Way To Find Work.

This article is based on my 20 years experience as an IT professional and on observing thousands of IT professionals over the past years as a corporate and industry recruiter. One of the things I noticed from my perspective as a recruiter was that the successful people had certain things in common. One of those things was that they all networked professionally on a regular basis, often meeting two or three people per week just for the purpose of networking.

Ask any HR professional and they will tell you, the #1 way people find the work is through networking. Less than 5% of the jobs available at any given time are advertised. Ask any successful contractor and they will tell you the same thing. Think about your own experience with contractors. How did you hear about them? Look around yourself and see if there were not pre-existing relationships in many cases where you now see employment.

The reason for this is simple - trust. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Employers will always prefer to hire someone they know or who is recommended. Contractors find work primarily through being recommended to others by previous customers.

So how do we develop these trust relationships that may lead to work? What exactly is professional networking?

By professional networking I mean:

1. attending appropriate events, functions and activities where it is likely you will meet people who can help you develop your business or find work.

2. following up with people you have met and asking them to meet with you to find out more about them, their company, or their industry. Notice the focus is on them, not you. If you are interested in them, they will become interested in you.

3. investing your time and efforts to give what is required for relationships to develop.

There are a few things that are required in order to network successfully, that is, to show some results.


The first law of relationships is proximity: the simple fact of being physically close to another person. That is what makes more relationships than any other factor. You sit with them in school, they work in your office, you met them at church or at baseball. Think about where and how did you met your friends. So the first thing required is to enable proximity, which means going out to meet with people.


The second law of relationships is frequency: you must be meeting these people on more than one occasion to develop relationships. Frequent proximity allows people to get to know each other, and eventually establishes trust. So not only do you need to network, you need to be committed to networking as an on-going activity because trust takes time to develop.

Follow up

Once you are going out meeting people, you must follow up by asking to meet with them. You can call them directly and ask them to meet you for coffee or lunch. You can email them to tell them about something you think they would be interested in or to invite them to something.

Mind Set

Professional networking requires a shift in mindset prior to beginning. To network successfully you must not think of yourself as 'needing' work! Let me explain.

When you approach someone to network, to meet with them, if you give them the impression you are needy, wanting something from them, they will put up their defenses and deny you access.

Think of how you feel if you meet someone who is clearly, perhaps desperately, looking for a new boyfriend or girlfriend. Alarm bells go off as you ask yourself what is wrong here. Most employers can tell by the tone of your voice when you call them if you are needy or not. Our inner agenda is always communicated in non-verbal ways, and for the average person, it is impossible to prevent it. The solution is not to try to prevent it, as many people do, but to change it. And it is really not that difficult.

You only need to change your thinking to something like this… " I am not available for employment just now because…I am on a contract till March", "…I am still in school", "… I have a personal project to complete," etc. Whatever works for you.

The key is to find some valid reason you are not available and take it to heart. This does two things;

· one, it changes your mindset from being needy
· and two, it actually makes you more attractive to an employer!

How can it do that?

Have you ever noticed that when you have a partner, boyfriend, or girlfriend, there are lots of options available but when you become single they seem to evaporate?

The reason is that a person who is not available has several things going for them:

· They are perceived as having value to be acquired, rather than requiring value be given.
· They feel more secure and therefore unconsciously exude more self confidence.
· They act themselves, therefore their behavior towards others is more open and honest.

All these things make a person more attractive to the opposite sex and these same psychological factors come into play in any interaction or relationship. If you approach others as someone who is busy, self confident, and who has value but is not available, you will find them much more open to meeting with you.

So, once you have the critical step of the mindset dealt with, you are ready to begin networking by getting out and following up.

As I mentioned earlier, most successful IT professionals meet a colleague for lunch or coffee 2-3 times per week. Also, they are usually volunteering in one or two professional or non-professional organizations. At a recent presentation I attended, one employer explained that his best source of new business was coaching little league!

Now before you get started, let me tell you a few things not to do.

· Don't come on so strong that you are pushy or aggressive. Not in this town anyway.
· Don't be passive and wait for others to approach you. Have a plan and act on it.
· Don't just socialize, and make small talk. You do want them to know about your professional life.

And here's a few to do tips:

· The professional networker is goal oriented and targets contacts that will help achieve career goals.
· They look for opportunities to help others.
· They focus on one person at a time. (If you only focused on one person per week then in one year you would have 52 new contacts!)
· They have a diverse network of contacts because they do not expect direct results i.e. you meet Nicky at WEAV, and she invites you to Digital Eve, where you meet Christine who was golfing on the weekend and her buddy said there is an opportunity where she works...
· Make things happen. Be the one who creates and facilitates. Teach something. Write articles (Hey!). Start a group. Put on a meeting. I recently introduced myself to over 400 new people in the process of putting on a dinner meeting for a group of IT professionals.

Once you get a job or contract, don't stop this process. These days, a 'permanent job' means you will be working for the same employer for two to five years. Somewhere in there either you will leave, or the job will. You will need another job or contract and the best time to be networking is when you are working. When you are not available!

To find out what's on, check out the calendar for IT related functions you can attend.

Lastly, and most importantly, focus on and enjoy the process; the goal will take care of itself.

See you around!

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