Job and Career Networking in Australia and New Zealand
The Hidden Job Market Part III
Job Seekers in Australia and New Zealand want relevant info to learn what the ‘Hidden Job Market’ really is, how it works and more importantly how they can access it.The keys to the Hidden Job Market are networking and relationships. I have four simple methods to show you how to turn the keys to create job and career leads and open doors leading to your next job.
Many of us deal with networking the way we handle our visits to the dentist. We know we’re supposed to do it regularly, but we really don’t want to and so we only go when something goes wrong and we have no other choice.
Most online tips make the whole networking process cumbersome, involved and for most of us incredibly unappealing. We are not all natural sales people or extroverts and so many of the tips go against our natural personality traits. I regularly come across ‘new’ sets of networking tips and I have to say that I roll my eyes when I reflect on some of the suggested actions. Much of the advice seems insincere and sycophantic, and for introverts in particular it all too often seems to require becoming a whole new person. Most of these tips also suggest that we need to become a person who is fearless, hyper social and someone who never encounters an awkward moment of silence.
Well, sorry guys, that’s not how it works in real life. That’s also not how we want to be ‘networked’ here in Australia or New Zealand. I have learned to adjust and fine tune my networking skills since arriving in Australia 15 years ago and I have abandoned a number these ‘full frontal’ techniques.
Networking in our hemisphere isn’t really about forcing yourself out the door to attend networking events where you present your elevator speech and hand out your business card to as many people as possible. Networking in our part of the world is about developing genuine relationships with people who will be there for you even when you don’t need them. So how do you do that?
1. Become an interesting networker
If you are familiar with social networking and communication platforms where you have to ask your counterpart if they want to connect with you, you soon learn that the game is not about who you know – it’s about who wants to know you! Our society has developed smart techniques of ‘guerrilla networking’ and suddenly even the quiet and shy ones get to the front of the queue. We tend to connect with interesting people.
Most introverts are putt off by networking tips that require an outgoing ‘full frontal’ connection approach. Australians have a fine tuned radar when it comes to networking. Meeting people can do nothing for you if you yourself have nothing interesting to offer, so why work your butt off to meet people when you can put that same energy into becoming an interesting person within your field, and then, benefit again by having the same people you want to meet you? I am not suggesting that you wear red shoes or a feather boa to be noticed and to connect with others. Networking takes time and you are not going to become ‘interesting’ overnight but there are techniques that you can implement immediately, such as participating in a discussion and providing some useful insight, offering to help people, smiling or sending an email with insight and tips or connections. These are easy and simple things to do and people remember you more for what you offered, than brash, pushy foot-in-the-door appearances.
2. Demonstrate your interest in other people – not in yourself
The reality of most networking encounters is that most attendants are more interested in themselves than they are in you. Most of them will tend to talk about themselves rather than really listen to you. I think that this is an opportunity to be ‘interesting’ so set yourself apart and become genuinely interested in other people. Dale Carnegie wrote about this technique in his time tested advice How to Win Friends and Influence People.
I have not had a situation in a conversation or first encounter where I could not discover something truly interesting about the other person. And hey, if the only interesting thing about your counterpart is that they don’t present anything of interest to you, then move on. The fun part of good networking is that quality is more important than quantity. You don’t have to connect with everyone. But if you ‘click’ with your counterpart, remember to do what I suggested in step 1.
3. Join clubs, forums and groups
Don’t be one of those pesty and obvious guys who only join clubs to meet people just for networking. That is bad form and people will see right through it. I suggest that you join clubs or forum groups or social media platforms that do things or offer content and participation in things that you are genuinely interested in.
You’ll already have at least one thing in common with the group resulting in more opportunities of developing a relationship that could one day lead to a job opportunity. New people come and go at clubs, forums and groups and there are plenty to choose from, so your network can grow naturally without pressure. The part I like the most is that you will probably discover something where you have fun and make friends at the same time so the whole networking thing won’t feel like such hard work.
4. Focus more on collecting business cards than on handing them out
I am always amazed how many people get this one wrong. If you are amongst those people who think that handing out your business card makes you a new contact then, you’re dead wrong. When you are handing someone your card without getting theirs in return, then you lost the contact. You have no way of contacting them again.
Despite iPhones, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and all the other smart tweet and twittle solutions out there, the exchange of business cards is still one of the most effective networking tools and also one of the most professional tools to kick off a networking connection… provided of course you do it right. I recommend that when you get someone else’s card, that you ask for permission to make some notes on the card first , and then proceed to take down key notes about what you talked about on the back (you’ll be thankful for this down the track when you dig up that card again) and follow up the next day. A quick follow up will make you top of mind and it also demonstrates your networking skills. When you follow up, whether it’s by email, text message or phone call, remind them what you talked about and prove that you were actually paying attention to what they had to say. You will make an impression.
So no matter what your networking opportunity is, it helps to have a personal elevator speech in mind and it is certainly helpful to have a few business cards, but remember that those two are not going to be enough to connect.
The same applies to staying in touch with people, even, and especially, when you don’t need something. Good networkers and good connectors are genuine. You should connect and network because you really care about the other person not because you hope the connection will pay off some day when you are in need. So no matter what you are – introvert or extrovert – sales type or academic – the real key to the Hidden Job Market is genuine and sincere networking.
Just be the best version of yourself in whatever you do out there.
– remember to hunt wisely!