Who are the right people to network with?

Thu, 02/02/2012 - 17:08 -- nick

Networking is seen as a necessity in the modern world of job seeking, but networking with anyone and everyone can be counter-productive. So how do you determine the right people to network with and what do you do with those bad contacts?
Networking is a smart and natural way to move forward in life. You'll make friends and acquaintances and have the chance to receive as well as give as you progress your career.
That said, you need to network with the right people and not simply anyone and everyone, especially those who may be less than sincere. Unfortunately some people may be more prepared to take than give, and waste your valuable time and good intentions.

Spotting good and bad contacts
Good networking contacts hold a few common traits:

  • They're interested in the long term, as well as the here and now
  • They try to help or advise rather than just talking about themselves
  • They can demonstrate their expertise, rather than just making hollow claims

The best sort of contact is often able to help you make a decision about your career, broadening your horizons and making you aware of alternatives.
Such contacts are willing to be objective and helpful, offering advice about you career plans and helping you shape your future. Ensure you are building a worthwhile relationship with these people, and do whatever you can to learn about them so you can offer some advice of your own.
Some of the signs to look for in bad networking contacts are:

  • Those who lack credibility.
  • Those who seek your help too often
  • Those who are only focussed on their own needs
  • Those who are unwilling to explore possibilities

These types of contacts may be charismatic or even fun, often they will seem friendly, but sooner or later you will realise that you are wasting your time and getting nowhere. Make sure that you don;t show any of these bad habits yourself.

Making your contacts work
As your network of contacts widens, more and more people will keep you in mind when possible opportunities arise. Thus, through systematic exposure to your network of good contacts you can get closer to possible employment opportunities.
Networking works because it is co-operative. The person you are talking to knows that when they need to, they can also get in touch with you so you can both exchange advice, information or contacts.
Networking also works because it enables all parties an opportunity to talk openly and honestly. However, if this isn't happening, then you may reluctantly have to give them up and move on.
If you have a networking contact who isn't doing your search any good, it may be in your best interests to let them slip off the radar. You have two options. Firstly, be up front about it. If you tell contacts that you think the relationship is all one way traffic then they may even change their ways and start to become useful. Al least with this method you can offer them some rationale behind your decision.
However, It's not like splitting up with a partner where an explanation is mandatory. You can get away with not returning emails and calls and they will soon get the message that they're not wanted. However, be warned that this may make for some uncomfortable meetings at conferences or industry events.