The Three P’s of Networking

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  Network, network, network.”

You’ve heard it all before, right?  So what does it mean to network… and to do a good job of it?

Today I’ll take a look at the three P’s of networking:  purpose, people, and process.

Your primary purpose should be to establish some level of rapport, ideally developing that relationship over time.  People tend to do business with – and hire – people they know, like, and trust.  Speaking with someone, perhaps meeting for a cup of coffee, exchanging ideas, etc., might get things started.

Another purpose in networking is to gather information, particularly if you’re considering a change in careers.  You could call this informational interviewing. Actually, networking and informational interviewing go hand in hand, the primary difference being there’s less information required when you’re trying to stay in the same field.  In that case, the information you’d seek would pertain to that person’s employer… its corporate culture, growth plans, etc.

The people?  I suppose anyone is better than no one, but in reality you’ll look to network with a degree of focus.  If you’d like to work in healthcare, then consciously engage with those folks.  If your interest isn’t industry-specific, but rather more job function-related, then focus on meeting people doing what you want to do. Where you can, establish rapport with those at a level sufficient enough to either hire you or affect the hiring decision.

Now let’s look at the process.  LinkedIn has made the process easier for job seekers. But if you’re not on LinkedIn, don’t feel left out.

Use LinkedIn’s filters to identify the people to whom you’d like to be introduced. I call it the “bread crumb trail.” Call your first level connection… the one who is also connected to your target person… and ask your first level person to email your target, copying you, as a means of electronic introduction… encouraging your target to give you a few minutes for networking purposes.

Since you were copied on the message, forward it to your target while copying your first level connection, thanking your first level for the introduction and asking for the chance to speak with your target.

Here’s what to do if you’re not on LinkedIn.  Instead of conducting your own filtered search on the website, simply ask the person your meeting with, “If you were in my shoes, who would you speak with for more information?”

Once they provide a name, then proceed as you would with the email introduction as with the LinkedIn example above.

Don’t make the mistake of asking your targets for a job.  Once you do – and their answer is no – the conversation ends.  They know you’re looking.  If they know of something, they’ll likely tell you.

Remember, while your larger goal is landing a job, your shorter goal should be to initiate and grow that “know, like, trust” component so critical to hiring decisions. Good luck!