AARP recently hosted a webcast on how to “Sharpen Your Networking and Interview Skills”. If you missed it, it was an interesting session and you can still catch it via the archive. Of course, one of the big topics during the webcast was how to network. Frankly, it never ceases to amaze me the number of people who only network when they need to. Which is usually when they’re looking for a job.
Add to that, the number of people who swear that they’ve learned their lessons about always needing to network. Then once they land a new job, what do they do? Yep, they stop networking. They completely forget that conversation where they swore they’ve learned their lesson and realize they need to continuously network.
One of the best books I’ve read on the subject of networking is Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone”. I do have to admit it was kinda ironic that I read the book while traveling (alone) from a conference. But we won’t go there today.
In addition to the takeaways in Ferrazzi’s book, I’ve learned a few things about networking over the years. But, it might be easier to explain what networking is by saying what it’s not:
- Something to cross off your ‘to-do’ list (as in “I networked today.”)
- Only connecting with people who you feel can do something for you
- Calling someone just to ask for favors
- Giving your resume to everyone you meet
- Only talking with your posse and not meeting anyone new
- Handing out your business card to everyone you meet
The purpose of networking is building relationships. Let me say that again. Networking is about building relationships. And, how do you build solid relationships? I think of listening, smiling, sharing, helping, and connecting. Let me add that building relationships is a two-way street. Good networking has a balance to it. It’s not about one person always making the call. Or one person always asking a question. It’s about equal giving and sharing.
One last thing about networking. It’s not about always saying yes to every request that’s made of you. That’s a sure-fire way to starting feeling like you’re being taken advantage of. Learning how to say “no” is an equally important business skill.
Networking is still a critical skill in unretirement. As we get older, we can’t simply say, “I don’t need to network anymore.” We might want to network to find a part-time job. Or a consulting gig. Maybe just to get some information about Social Security or Medicare. We could also use networking to get a sought-after volunteer role, like being an usher at the local community theater (i.e. think about all those free shows!).
Networking isn’t just about getting jobs. So, we need to keep refining our skills and cultivating our network. Because that’s how we help others and get the things that we want.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the Flora Icelandic HR Management Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland