The Psychology of Networking: How Some Appear Natural While Others Stutter

If you’ve spent time looking for a new job these days, then it shouldn’t surprise you to find out that, according to Harvard Business School, 65% to 85% of jobs are found through networking.

That statistic was a big deal when it was released. To 99% of the population, it was like a brutal slap in the face. People were outraged that they were not given a “fair chance” to interview. To be frank, I thought that number was pretty low. Here’s why.

Let’s say you went to a bar one night and you intended to meet someone. And sure enough, a stranger approached you as soon as you sat down. Let’s say you hit it off with this stranger. After a brief 30 minutes chat, both of you decided to set another date. Now would you move in with this stranger after the second date?

Because that’s what that number is saying. That number is saying that 15% to 35% of all employers are desperate enough to make a new hire based on 2 interviews (pretty standard practice) with a stranger. And here’s the thing: hiring is a risky business.

Forget the hard financial cost. By employing you, the employer is taking a social risk by introducing you to her team. She is also taking a professional risk because to some extent, hiring you is like putting her job on the line. And most importantly, she is taking a personal risk – what if you’re a psycho?

That’s where networking comes in. Networking is like dating. It allows your future employer to get to know you better and minimize the risks she will be taking in hiring you. The problem is that schools don’t teach networking – and most people simply don’t know what to do.

Well, the first step is not to appear like a desperate weirdo. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially when a job is on the line. Here are a couple of steps to make sure you never again say, “I can’t believe I said that!”

Serendipity vs Goal:

“How does he appear so smooth?” my friend wondered. He just witnessed a colleague of ours get a card from one of the most well-known industry influencers. Here’s how: he prepared!

Those who are new to networking tend to have this assumption that networking is like falling in love. You go from one person to the other, stumbling around randomly, and hope that you find “the one”. There’s just one problem with that approach: when you do meet the one, you don’t know what to say.

Networking veterans, on the other hand, have a clear target. They identified which company they want to work with and exactly what role they desire – and thus who they need to speak to.

Before they step into a conference or any networking opportunity, they did their research. Who will be the speakers? Who are the VIPs? Is there anyone who will be there I’d like to meet? Check LinkedIn, scour Twitter, and dig around Facebook. Most people would tell the world when they will be attending a major event.

Once they’ve identified who they want to meet, they do two things:

Find similarities to create a perceptual bond. For example, did both of you attend the same university? Are both of you photography enthusiasts?

Find out what these people are doing so you can talk about it. Are they involved in a foundation? Did she just come back from a prolonged break?

And if you’re worried they find out you conducted research, don’t! Most people would be flattered you take the time to get to know them better before approaching.

Mindset: Getting a Job vs Delivering Value:

Once you make contact, make sure you have the right mindset.

Most people have this mindset that they should be given a job before they start working… almost like they are entitled to a job. Treat me well first, in other words, and I will do the same. Successful networkers, on the other hand, know that the opposite is true. You need to deliver value first, and you’ll boost your chances of being offered a job in the future.

There are 3 ways you can deliver value:

Offer to help with a current project. Like this, “I’m actually working on something similar. Would you like my notes?”

Forward interesting research you might have discovered. Busy people have no time to keep up-to-date with all the latest development in their industry so anyone who points them to interesting happenings scores big points. Start with, “I heard you’re working on this project, you should check this out…”

Introduce them to people who can add value to their lives. Beginners have the misconception of hoarding their contacts, wrongly assuming that social equity is this limited pie. In fact, the opposite is true. The more connections you make, the more your social equity multiplies – just make sure you know the person you’re introducing knows his/her stuff.

So there you go, 2 simple steps. First, conduct your research on a number of topics you want to talk about. Prepare and practice, practice, practice. Second, consult and deliver value first before asking. Heck, don’t expect anything in return for that matter… that simple shift in mindset is bound to improve your behavior.

Related: 3 Smart Networking Strategies to Use at Your Next Event.

This article was written by Andrianes Pinantoan, who is part of the team behind, an Australian TAFE Courses provider. When not working, he can be found in his personal blog, Journey To Earth.

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