Career Success – When Is the Best Time to Network

best time to networkMany of us only remember to start networking when we hate our current job or when we are between jobs.  Unfortunately that is the worst time to start networking.  You can come across

  • Negative –  If you are hating your job.  It’s inevitably you will complain about it while networking. No one likes to be around complainers
  • Desperate – if you are looking for a job, you may very well be in a “rush to network.”  That will come across needy.  You will be too focused on finding a job and getting someone to do something for you vs. just getting to know people and letting them get to know you.
  • Pushy – You are likely more on a timeline..  You may start “stalking” people (eg., follow up too often) so you can “network” to get what you need (a connect, a job opportunity, etc..)

Even if you consciously try not to be any of the above, you may still come across that way if you are “networking” on a timeline.  The key to networking is “to be interesting and interested.”  You cannot just focus on what you need at the moment.  It’s also a time to really to get to know the other person and see how you can help them.

The best time to network is when you are happy at your current job!   This may seem counterintuitive, but think you will agree with me conceptually.   This is when you are …

  • Your best self – You are happy at work.  You can share your excitement with others you meet.  You are most likely to be very relaxed and charming.  Who doesn’t like to be around happy people!
  • Interesting to others – Because you actually don’t need anything from anyone. You are just making an effort because you thought they are interesting too.  This takes all the pressure off of a networking get together.   It’s a time to just enjoy meeting new people.
  • Open minded –  There is no agenda in your head.  You have the mind space to listen and really get to know other people as people.  You won’t just talk about work but also hobbies, philosophy of life, etc…
  • Most available –  Because you don’t need to find another job, you have time to socialize.  You are also not in a rush, so if someone says they can only meet 5 weeks from now.  You can say, “no problem, no rush.  I look forward to meeting you then. “

At the end of the day, people don’t just hear what you say.  They can always feel how you feel.   When you feel stressed to find a new job, whoever you meet during networking also feels that from you even if you try to hide it.    When you feel happy, you will also enjoy the networking and so will the new people you meet.

This all sounds logical, but actually also hard to follow.  I know this because although I am writing this post, I also make this mistake often – don’t network when I am happy and network in a hurry when I need something.  It’s actually human nature.

  • When we are happy, we think of networking as “work.”
  • When we are happy, we have no incentive to do “extra work” like networking.  We almost need the pain of not liking our job to make networking a priority.
  • When we are happy, we just want to enjoy…

The only way to make “networking” not “work” is to shift your perspective and to do it on a consistent, unhurried basis.

  • Be genuinely interested in learning when you meet new people.
  • Make it into a game – it’s a chance to “reinvent” yourself each time.  They don’t know you.  You can position yourself as anything and you can see if it’s believable.  I don’t mean lie to them.  I mean if you have been a business analyst, but have aspirations to become a product manager, start talking like you are one already and start meeting those people.
  • Feel even better about yourself – meeting new people is a chance to present your best self forward.  As you share what you like and what are learning, you can appreciate your job and your own experience even more.
  • Make job hunting later so much easier –  When you do need to find a job later, you don’t necessarily need to meet new people for that.  You’ve already done it when you were happy.  Now you can just reach out to your linkedin network and see who can help you.  Because they already know you, they are more likely to help you.

This article is as much of a good reminder for me as it is potentially helpful for you.  I actually started networking desperately about two months ago. I thought I needed to quit my job soon.  I was working every day for a month straight and my new role was high stress and completely ambiguous.  I had one networking meeting during that time and it was with a business school friend.  Looking back at it, I probably stressed her out by telling her all the issues at my work and then asking her to help me network into her company.   It was not the best approach.   She actually stopped texting me.  I was probably negative and pushy. Yikes.

A week ago, I had another networking call.  This went a lot better because I had a much better handle on my job.  I am actually enjoying it now and she could tell.  This is where she said it’s a good reminder for us both to network when we are happy.    I am meeting two VC founders and one startup founder in June.   I can’t wait to learn more about them.   Now that I have momentum and this reminder,  I am happy to be networking and with no pressure. You should give it a try! 🙂

Your comments:  Do you agree you should networking while you are happy at work?  Are you doing it?  What is the next action you are doing to network?   Once you write it down, it’s more likely to happen.   I look forward to your comments

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