Networking is the key to your future success in your personal and professional life.
Without it, you will not be able to connect with the people who can be your mentor, teach you about life, and encourage you to grow.
With it, you can fulfill your God-given potential and make an impact that is meaningful to you and for the Kingdom.
Before we get started, I want to clear up one thing. Networking here does not mean spamming people and asking them for jobs.
Networking means “a mutually beneficial relationship between two people developed over time.”
After reading this report, you’ll understand why networking now, during quarantine, is the best thing you can do to develop yourself and significantly increase your chances of entering the field you want. You’ll also confront 3 false ideas about networking that need to be changed and why those mindsets are keeping you from having the impact and influence you desire for yourself and the Kingdom. Finally, you’ll learn the 7 steps you can use TODAY to get started connecting with people in the field you want to explore.
Why networking now is a great idea
1. Strategically connect with people
Networking online, especially through social media like LinkedIn, allows you to be very strategic in your connections. By strategically connecting online, you enhance your chances of learning more about the field or position that interests you. This is much better than attending a networking event where you might meet only one person that is helpful for you.
For the introvert, this also takes much of the social pressure off of networking. Instead of randomly approaching people at a networking event, you are reaching out to specific people with a specific reason for doing so. This makes connecting much less awkward and helps it feel more genuine.
2. Dig the well before you’re thirsty
Networking right now, in quarantine, is also key because few people are doing this. People are feeling a variety of emotions and some are taking this time to coast or put their job search on pause. You want to take this time to dig your well before you need it. Hopefully, you’re still a few months away from graduating, so now is the best time to begin networking and connecting with people in the field you want to work.
I did not do this and ended up spending a total of 8 months from the time I graduated with a master's degree to when I got my first job. 5 of those months were spent aimlessly searching and applying for jobs online. However, when I started applying the principles I’m sharing here, I found a job, interviewed with the company, and started my first day within 3 months.
3. No cost and it’s easy to do
The best thing about this is that it doesn’t cost ANY money to do and you can do it from your couch while you watch Netflix. It doesn’t cost you anything to send messages through LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook. You can use a template I provide here later, customize it for each person, and then send it, all while you enjoy the latest episode of Tiger King or whatever you’re watching.
Mind shift changes
Before we talk about how to network well, I want to address three false ideas that I had to overcome and what I did to shift my mindset around networking.
False idea 1 - Networking isn’t easy for me
I’ll be honest, this was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome. I’m more on the introvert scale in Meyers-Briggs (where are my ISTJs at!!) and I had always struggled with how to talk with people who I didn’t know. But as I expanded my comfort zone by talking to new people, I found that networking is a skill.
Sure, some people are much better at this than others, but I’ve found that the best people at networking are those who practice networking. Just like Lebron James, Marie Curie, or Mozart all had innate talents in their fields, but it was only through deliberate practice that they improved their skills. You can do this same thing! Practice, practice, practice and you’ll find how you like to do networking and what works best for you.
False idea 2 - It’s weird to reach out to people I don’t know online
This may have been true 10 or even 5 years ago, but now it’s completely normal, and if you do it the right way, acceptable. As the cool kids say, “it all goes down in the DMs.” It is very common now for people to reach out via LinkedIn or IG and ask questions, request help, or get to know others.
If you’re still uncomfortable reaching out to a stranger online, you can always address that right away. When you reach out to someone, just say, “Hey, I know this is kind of weird that I’m reaching out to you and we don’t know each other but I saw you do XYZ and I’m looking at doing that and I’d love to talk with you for 10-15 minutes about it.” In my experience, and seeing others do this, almost EVERY time people will want to help and are more than willing to talk with you for 10-15 minutes about what they do.
Also, to make this easier, you can search for mutual connections between yourself and the person you want to connect with. Linkedin makes this super easy because it shows mutual connections. You can then reach out to the person you know and ask them to make an introduction. This is where I’ve found the bulk of my success come from in connecting with people because people are more likely to talk to someone they don’t know if the request comes from someone they do know.
False idea 3 - Networking is very shallow
The traditional view of networking is that it’s about swapping names and cards and hoping the other person connects with you after the networking event. The updated version of this is getting random connection requests on Linkedin from people you met once somewhere and you never asked them to connect with you. This can all feel shallow, insincere, and frustrating. But that’s not what networking is, that’s surface-level connection. Networking is about developing mutually beneficial relationships over time.
Let me ask you, would you rather make surface-level connections or develop relationships? I’m assuming that many of you believe developing relationships is much better than surface-level connections. I know I saw a tremendous increase in my ability to develop genuine relationships with others when I shifted my perspective of networking in this way. I went from thinking that every interaction had to be give and take to seeing how every connection was my opportunity to help someone else.
That single mindset shift radically catapulted my success in networking. I went from hating the idea of networking to loving every opportunity to meet new people. This was because every time I met a new person, it was a chance for me to tell them about myself and what I wanted to do and it was a chance for me to learn about them and find ways I could help them. My networking experiences became so much richer and it is now something I continue to do today!
Okay, you’ve stuck with me this far! Way to go! I want to finish this part up with the 7 steps you can take today to begin practicing your networking muscles.
1. Be strategic
Identify people who are doing what you want to do or in fields where you want to work and reach out to them. Find professional groups to be a part of or use LinkedIn by searching for positions. When you find those people and groups, start reaching out to them and letting them know that you’re just getting started and want to learn more about a topic.
2. Have a goal
When you reach out to people, be specific with how much time you’d like to spend and what questions you’d like to ask them. This will help them prepare for the call and give you the most impact and learning from them.
3. Customize your message
Each message should be customized to the person you are sending it to. Below is a template that I’ve used but don’t copy this word for word, customize it to the person you are connecting with.
“Hello ____, my name is Jonathan Dagerath and I saw that you attended Texas A&M. I also attended Texas A&M, class of 18, and I’d like to talk with you about your time at A&M and the work you are doing now. I’m graduating soon and I’m considering doing XYZ and I’d like to talk with you about your experience with that. Can you let me know some times that work for you to talk for 15-20 minutes over the next week?”
It’s important that each message is customized.
4. Be prepared
When you get on the phone, be prepared with your questions. This will show that you’re serious, you respect the person you’re talking with, and it will help you get the most out of the conversation.
5. Debrief with yourself
Debrief from the meeting, what did you learn? Do you still want to move forward with pursuing this career or pivot to something else? Don’t hold on too tightly to something, you’re still in the information gathering stage so honestly ask yourself if you’re still excited about pursuing this or if you want to pivot to something else.
6. Follow up
Follow up a couple of days later thanking them for talking with you and telling them what action you’ve taken since meeting with them. If they connected you with someone or if they gave you advice, make sure that you’ve acted on that advice. There is no better way to guarantee someone will help you in the future than acting on the advice they’ve given you.
Keep repeating this process. This is a volume game. You’re already being strategic, so the quality of your connections are good, so now you need to just get in front of as many people as you can.
Networking is the number one tool you can use to learn about a field or position you are interested in and for getting into that field or position. Networking is what will set you apart from everyone else, especially when you are applying for a job. It will make your application stand out if you show that you know someone at the company. It also connects you with people in the industry who can become mentors and guides as you grow in the field.
All of this can be unlocked for you if you can shift your mindset to viewing networking as sleazy, shallow, and insincere and viewing it as a way to develop a mutually beneficial relationship between you and the person you are connecting with. If you do that and follow the steps above, you’ll be making tremendous strides to landing a role in your dream field!
Written by Jonathan Dagerath