Can you remember a time when the word “networking” was strong enough to stand on it’s own two feet? That is, before it’s young friend “social” appeared on the scene stealing the limelight?
What’s the first thing that comes to mind? “Likes”? “Shares”? “Followers”? “Connections”? “Re-tweets” perhaps?
Now take the social part out of it for a moment.
What about pure (traditional) good old fashioned networking?
What’s the first thing that comes to mind now? Seeking out potential new leads? Cultivating new business partnerships? Looking for industry advice from experts in your field? Perhaps even a hunting ground to source for candidates?
Do you think you can really build a business partnership by clicking “Like” beneath a photo someone has posted? Or by simply sending a LinkedIn invitation to someone you have never even spoken to before?
We’ve posted about the importance of networking in the past.
In order to see the fruits of your networking efforts, you certainly can’t rely on a one-hit (or a ‘one-thumb’) wonder.
Would you really consider going to one networking event, dropping your business card into a bowl and hoping someone calls you and says, “Hey … I picked out your business card from the bowl at that meet-up the other night. I’ve got an amazing lead for you!”?
People do business with people they know and like. People refer business to people they trust.
Building a true referral network takes time and effort. You might have to repeat your elevator pitch several times over the course of a few months before the penny finally drops and someone you’re building a networking relationship with says, “I’ve got a qualified referral for you” (and in the recruitment world that could be a hot client prospect or an A-grade candidate).
To learn more about how recruiters make the most of networking to stay top of mind with potential clients and to build a community of future candidates, I reached out to a group of independent experts in the recruiting space and asked each one:
“As a recruiter, how do you make the most out of ‘networking’? What tips or strategies can you share about networking?”
Here’s what each of them said, in their own words:
I network with everyone from engineering people to product people to CEOs to other recruiters. I like online networking best right now because it works for the types of roles I mainly recruit for and allows me to focus my days/nights better. Balance is everything in this business or burnout will prevail!
San Francisco, Bay Area, California
Utilize LinkedIn! As an independent recruiter I’ve been able to connect and develop relationships with extremely qualified candidates who happen to be connected to many similar candidates. Whenever reaching out to someone newly connected, there is a high probability we have a shared connection and by mentioning the shared person, it gives me credibility and I repeat the process.
As a recruiter networking is key. Treat every interaction in your everyday life as a networking opportunity! From meeting new candidates for a specific role to your daily workout at the gym! There are opportunities everywhere and it’s key to remain open minded.
I have an active online presence and take time to refine, nurture and participate in this network of professional contacts, relationships and resources. I am very selective as to how I build my network by researching and utilizing new tools and being part of like-minded communities that align with my professional strengths and interests. I have found that the more focused I am upfront with these efforts, the easier it is to maintain, and the more beneficial and applicable the return (personally and professionally!).
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
1) Be genuinely interested in others – People love it when others take a sincere interest in them. Passive candidates want to feel validated as a unique individual and not feel as though they are in a cattle drive. They also appreciate it when recruiters care about them as a whole person and not just the skills they bring to the table. Find out what someone is passionate about and build a rapport around mutually-interesting subjects.
2) Build real relationships – In the age of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms there may be a tendency for some to rely too much on online outlets as a means of connecting. The fact is that connections are great but they are not relationships. Relationships are cultivated over time through in-person contact, trust, and nurturing. Networks are critical to your business success so make it part of your long-term career strategy. Convert some of your connections to friends and stay in touch with your contacts. Don’t just reach-out when you need something.
3) Practice the “Law of Reciprocity” – This is a social-psychological principle which basically says when we do good things for others and put positive energy into the Universe with good intention, that good eventually comes back to us. If you present yourself as someone who is honest and sincere who also takes the time to help others when they need it, without seeking anything in return, it inspires people and builds trust. People often can’t resist the urge to return a favor and sometimes in much bigger ways than the original action. Take the time to refer someone for a job opportunity, offer suggestions & advice or send business leads someone’s way. A great example of this is a business colleague who, to my pleasant surprise, gifted me his Cabo San Lucas presidential timeshare suite because I had given his company some recommendations, which resulted in business opportunities. So pass it on and pay it forward.
Los Angeles, California
As a recruiter, networking is vital to success.
Here are my top 8 networking tips:
- I always keep business cards with me to hand out to people I meet because I never know who could become a candidate or a client, or who might refer my services to others
- I always try and be a good listener, and I don’t just mean when taking a job brief, but in conversation generally. I find that to get a rapport with people they mostly like to engage and talk about themselves
- Even if conversation isn’t stimulating, I am cheery, pleasant and engaged in return
- Having a knowledge of current affairs also allows me to be able to talk about something topical and of interest; talking about the weather is rather overdone!
- It’s not always possible to remember people’s names, but I don’t hesitate to ask again if I’ve forgotten, because often the person I’m talking to has forgotten my name also. Networking is a two way interaction after all.
- If I pretend I’m the host at a function it’s easier to network because what host wouldn’t look after their guests? I’ll often go up to people who are alone and introduce myself and a conversation starts. 99% of the time I find people are really happy to have someone to talk to at functions and of course it’s a wonderful opportunity to exchange business cards.
- To ensure I’ve made a valuable networking connection, [I may need to contact in the future,] I always ask if I can get connected on LinkedIn
- Finally, to succeed at networking, I treat the relationship as one of trust and open communication not just a sales pitch. I always remember the old adage: “People will always remember how you made them feel, not what you said”
The best way to get comfortable talking to new people is to just do it. The more people you meet and connect with, the more comfortable you’ll start to feel with the idea of networking. If you don’t know what to say, let others do the talking. If you are not a born extrovert, then you have to get out of your comfort zone. Make sure you smile, because if you look happy and have open body language, people will be more likely to approach you, or let you approach them. Remember to smile before you enter the room, or before you start your next conversation.
I always try to improve my professional profile and to make sure it stands out. I maintain and keep client relationship and always keep track or follow, in that way I get to be introduced to new contacts. I join professional networking groups and I always make sure my networks get updated with any changes, broadcast, publishes or any comments I make on Social Media.
Johannesburg, South Africa
When I meet people I try to find out what their needs are from a career or hiring perspective. How is their business going? What challenges do they face from a human resource perspective? Are they looking for change? Maybe I won’t be able to help them in that moment but it opens the door for future collaboration. Networking is not about filling your Rolodex with names. It’s about delivering value to people and helping them make valuable connections.
My most valuable resource is time and to make sure I stay relevant in the ever changing recruitment market I dedicate an hour of my time each day to connecting with other recruiters, potential clients and candidates to ensure my ear is always to the ground. I also make sure that I get to at least 1 industry event bi-monthly.
Networking can be daunting however I always plan a strategy ahead of time and remind myself that connecting with new people helps to grow my business and can assist with overcoming future obstacles.
My best tips for networking events are: listen lots and ask questions. This is one time I apply the 80/20 rule to all conversations. Know your USP as this will help you stand out. Personalise your conversations because people like doing business with people they like, so talk about things that matter to you outside of business. Most importantly follow up with each new contact and always drop and email or connect via social media following the event. Good Luck!
I entrench myself in social media. LinkedIn, for my technical niche, is starting to be so saturated and overused that I prefer Twitter’s less formal, more personal platform as a format. Because software developers are so hounded by recruiters Twitter is a great place to show a more personal, less “salesey” side. Whether in person or in social media, I attempt to portray myself as someone who likes to build things as well: I build teams of people who build amazing things.