Networking for a job and working as part of a team once you get a job does not mean making speeches or manipulating others into recommending you for a position, or getting others to do their jobs or simply getting along with others.
The three “pillars” of successfully developing a network and working with others are
- building relationships,
- offering to help, and
- always being a professional, no matter what your occupation.
First of all, why do companies hire you, or me, or anyone else? They hire basically any of us for two reasons: 1) To solve bottom-line problems, and 2) to achieve bottom-line goals. Problems are legion and may include project bottlenecks, competition from other organizations, customer dissatisfaction, and a host of others. Bottom-line goals, of course, may include increasing income, customer satisfaction, more company visibility, product improvement, and many others.
When on the job or in a career, why do we strive for teamwork and for positive interactions with co-workers, managers, and subordinates (not to mention customers, consultants, and others)? Because it makes our work easier and more successful.
Pillar #1 is relationship building. This does not mean a deep, long-lasting, or even intimate relationship, but rather a positive and genuine relationship, the kind we each have with perhaps dozens of others we have in life – occasional friends, fellow students or co-workers, the same food server we see at our favorite restaurant, one’s doctor or accountant, etc.
How do we build a relationship? One answer is simply to listen to others. Most conversation in our society is that I talk about me, then you talk about you, then I talk about me, then you talk about you, and so forth. When we are asked about ourselves, on the other hand, most of us respond and find the interaction very positive. As President Herbert Hoover once said, “No one ever listened themselves out of a job.”
What do we listen for? We listen so that we can understand the other person – his or her problems, goals, feelings, perspectives, values, needs, likes and dislikes, goals.
When it comes to networking, there is no way to influence or otherwise manipulate others into help you. For a person to help you achieve your goals is a choice that they make. And a person will decide to help you if there are two things present – a genuine relationship (no matter how tenuous or seemingly minor) and their knowledge that you have a need. The choice for them to help you is theirs, not yours.
And there is a similar issue when working with a team. Ideally, everyone has a focus on getting the job done right and on cooperatively working with each other to achieve that goal.
One aspect of relating to others is simple common courtesy. Saying “Thank you,” and “May I ask a question?” and such phrases show consideration are relationship-builders.
Another relationship-builder is appreciating others. Showing that you appreciate someone or their talents or their strengths in coping with challenges or even just their goals is a message that most of us respond positively to. And how many of us receive words of appreciation even once a week?
Pillar #2 is offering to help others and companies. They hire us to help them. Why shouldn’t we acknowledge that and making it clear that helping them is our major focus? So, always keep in mind the question of how you can help others and companies, and make it clear that this is one of your major career and job priorities.
Have you ever noticed that most “elevator speeches” start off with the words, “I am….”?
“I am an experienced electrical engineer (or accountant, or project manager, or whatever) who is highly qualified for this job…”
How about: “I help companies increase profits and achieve high quality projects on time and under budget, in a project manager role.”
Or, to a co-worker: “Hey, that project looks challenging. May I help out?”
Pillar #3 is perhaps the most important of all – Always be a professional. Too many people these days are overly concerning about how they are treated by others. People get incensed when they are not being talked to or treated like the “professional” they feel they are.
Remember, being a professional is not a function of how you are treated or how you are perceived by others. It is a function of how you behave and how you interact. And the most important time to behave and act like is a professional is precisely when you are NOT being treated like one. That’s when it really counts.
Keep these three pillars in mind, and you are much more likely to build a truly genuine and helpful professional and personal network that is the key to a successful job search, and work successfully with others on the job.
About the Author
Dr. Sander (“Sandy”) Marcus is an experienced clinical psychologist who received his Ph.D. from Illinois Tech and was the former Director of Illinois Tech’s Counseling Center. He is currently a career consultant within Career Services, and has decades of experience as a career and personal counselor, author, and consultant.