A year or so ago I was speaking to a client and suggested that we connect via LinkedIn. He shook his head and told me that he wasn’t on LinkedIn because he didn’t want his boss to think he was looking for a job.
I shuddered at that, considering I’ve been connected on LinkedIn with every boss I’ve ever worked for. And while people do use it as a job search tool, networking – whether you do it on LinkedIn or in some other way – is about so much more than looking for a job.
Additionally, if all you use it for is to find a job, you probably won’t be very successful.
I’ve been on LinkedIn since 2005 and have used it for many other things besides looking for a job. So I’ve compiled a list of reasons that someone would network.
Reasons to network
To keep in touch
Early in my career, in the dark ages before this newfangled internet was available to everyone, if I met someone at a conference, we would exchange business cards. It would normally have that person’s company name, phone number and email address. I had a stack of business cards in my desk drawer and always had the contact’s information at my fingertips…until they found a new job, which resulted in a new phone number and email address, which essentially severed our connection unless they sent me an update.
These days if I meet someone at a conference, we might exchange business cards, mainly to have the correct spelling of their name to connect on LinkedIn. Some folks even have their LinkedIn profile on their card. When they change jobs, their LinkedIn profile is always available. As long as they keep their profile up to date, you always know where they work and what they’re up to in their career.
We often make friends and casual acquaintances through business functions, you may never need that person’s help to find a job; it’s just nice to stay in touch.
Possible sales leads
Everyone you meet is a potential customer for your company. People in sales already know that. You may be in engineering or accounts payable. That doesn’t mean you can’t scout out sales leads for your company. If you’re in a meeting or a hallway and overhear some sales reps talk about wanting to get in to company XYZ, imagine inserting yourself and saying, “I know a woman who works there. I could drop her an email and see if she can connect us with a decision maker.”
Even if it doesn’t end up resulting in a sale for your company, you’ll not only make a couple of friends in your company, your boss might recognize you as a team player going above and beyond the call of duty. Make sure to connect with those two sales reps on LinkedIn, by the way.
Network with clients and vendors
No matter what your role is with your company, you may come in contact with employees of your company’s clients or their vendors. Connecting with them can give you insight to companies your own organization has relationships with. That could enhance your knowledge of what they do, and allow you to be more productive or come up with creative ideas to do your job better. This could result in more accolades from your boss.
Post job openings for your company
Even though unemployment numbers appear high, there are certain industries where there is a shortage of workers. Healthcare, information technology and financial services in particular are having trouble finding qualified people.
If your company is looking for people, you can assist that by reaching out to your network. Somebody in your network may be looking and seek out your offer. If they hire on with your company, you might even get a referral fee. At the very minimum, you’re helping your company to succeed. Isn’t that everybody’s job?
In a related benefit for recruiting, if you are assigned to interview someone that is applying, you can learn a little more from them through your networking efforts. If someone applies that works at company XYZ and you have a connection at that company, you may be able to learn more about that employee through your link.
Help others out
Every once in a while you see someone in your network that is seeking a new position. You also see connections that are looking for positions. Your network is a unique circle of people. You may be able to match the job seeker with the candidate seeker. Sometimes it’s not even for a new job. I’ve seen posts from people asking if they’ve ever worked with a new technology and how they overcame a challenge. If you have expertise in that technology or know someone in your network that does, you can help them out that way too.
Networking is a great way to share information. How many times have you read an article related to your occupation that you thought others might enjoy. You can share that link with your network and anyone interested will have access to it.
Sometimes you or your coworkers may write articles about the goods and services your company provides. This is a great way to share information with your network and promote your company at the same time.
Enhance your skills
On most professional social networks there are groups that you can join which are related to your industry. Some of these groups have periodic newsletters with industry information and links to interesting articles. Groups give you a connection to the entire membership without having to connect with each person. If one of the members posts an interesting article to the group, you have access to that. Checking out the group’s link shows all of the history allowing you to perform searches on specific topics for research.
You never know when you’ll need to find a job
Even if you don’t want your boss to think you’re looking for a job, modern times have shown that your boss could put you in that situation at a moment’s notice. Waiting until you need a job is the absolute worst time to start networking to find a job.
Doing all of the tasks above will accomplish many things. And the incidental accomplishment will be that you have established a network and kept in touch with them. You have branded yourself as an expert and a helpful friend. Your name should be familiar now to most of the active members in your network. Some of them may be willing to help you in your time of need. You may have helped some of them in the past. It may be time to collect on those favors you so readily offered in the past.
Many people think networking is for looking for a job. Worse yet, they wait until they need a job to begin networking. The truth is you need to network on a regular basis. Then when you decide to look for a job – or your boss decides for you – you need to be ready to hit the ground running with an active network that already knows you and remembers you.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.