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Nikki Barnett, Assistant Director of Alumni Career Services

Since roughly 85 percent of jobs are obtained through personal contacts, more time should be spent on crafting the core messages you’d like to send to your network, while building and maintaining authentic relationships. If you’ve convinced yourself that networking isn’t for you, maybe it’s because you feel uncomfortable meeting new people or it’s not natural for you. That’s not a problem: we’ve pulled together 3 networking myths that often limit career growth, and debunk common misconceptions to help you benefit the most from this powerful technique.

Myth #1. You have to be a born networker or a natural at it.  What do we really mean when we say someone is a good networker, anyway? Is it because they look comfortable and demonstrate confidence when talking to new people? Is it their ability to connect and engage others? There can be many reasons we think someone is good at networking. Break down into smaller parts what makes someone a successful networker. Work on microskills and build toward your end goal to become better at networking.  Set means goals, not end goals.  For example, an end goal is, “I want to be better at networking,” while a means goal is, “I’m going to attend a networking mixer and meet 3 new people.” For many, networking is an acquired skill that is refined over time and requires a lot of practice. Most people are not born networkers. Practice with SBU CampusTap, our mini-LinkedIn (Click here to request a profile).

Myth #2. You have to be a schmoozer to be effective at networking. Contacts are less effective when you only reach out when you need something. Building a network of support requires authentic connections and is cultivated and nurtured over time. So, how do you network authentically? First, to be authentic you must have some clarity surrounding your values and interests. To connect with others in an authentic way, it’s important to engage and be present with people and learn about others. Identify core commonalities to make future connections easier. Organizational psychologist Adam Grant suggests that the most successful people are the ones who start giving right from day one. Grant further suggests we should offer others a “microloan” of our time, skills, and network. Exercise the 5 Minute Favor — which is a small way to add great value to other people’s lives.

Myth #3. Networking will take you all the way to a job. Not true. The job market is more competitive than ever before, which makes it hard to be seen among the sea of candidates. Your network might be able to get you an interview — but YOU have to get the job offer! You’ll have to provide proof that you have produced results using specific skills.Your accomplishments and valuable skill-set need to match what the employer is looking for.

You may feel like you’re outside of your comfort zone when networking — excellent; that means you’re growing. However, if you’re too far outside your comfort zone, you may feel paralyzed — that’s not so good.

Develop a plan of action. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of networking, break things down into smaller parts and capitalize on your strengths. If you’re an introvert and one-on-one conversations yield deeper connections with people, then don’t only use the approach of meeting with large groups of people to develop connections. Schedule one-on-one time and be reminded that the quality of your contacts matters more than the quantity. Networking is about the quality of relationships we enjoy.

Take the pressure off, be present, listen and be curious about others. Your success will be determined by the quality of your questions and your ability to listen. There is no guarantee that your connections will result in a job opportunity — network anyway. Instant gratification doesn’t come often and should not be expected — be patient and network anyway. Want to learn more? Attend one of the six Art of Networking workshops.

We look forward to seeing you at this year’s 8th Annual Student-Alumni Networking Mixer — Tuesday, March 27 @ 6:00 pm, SB Hilton Garden Inn.

Students and recent graduates | Register here!

Mentors — Share your story, and your advice | Register today!

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Career Corner

Alumni Career Services offers a variety of lifetime career services, tools, and resources to help you in making lifelong career decisions. Whether you have recently graduated, are looking to enhance your skills and training, or are ready to make a career change, find help here on career exploration and growth, job hunting, networking and educational events, and ways to get involved. 

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