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November 11, 2022 - 8 minutes

Networking: What Is It and How Do You Do It

Unpack the mystery that is networking

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70%. This is the proportion of recruiters who start their search for talent through their network. 

40% of jobs in total would never be published, because they are filled in the so-called "hidden job market", since they can only be accessed by... networking.

In his book Find the right job thanks to networking, Hervé Bommelaer writes: “75% of the hiring of senior managers is done through the network (...). The higher one is placed in the hierarchy and especially the more one advances in experience and age, the more this percentage increases. However, many of them rush to online advertisements, which account for only 20% of available jobs, or to headhunting, which places only 5% of managers in employment”. 20% of jobseekers only are actively networking.

So, what is networking? How can you get the ball rolling and, above all, maintain your network on a daily basis to boost your career? Here are some tried and tested tips. 

Networking And String-pulling: What’s The Difference? 

If you think it's the same thing, we're sorry to say that you haven't (yet) understood anything about networking. 

String pulling happens when you put someone in a position. It is an act of authority that often has little to do with the suitability of the profile to a position or the hard skills or human qualities of the person. String-pulling is becoming increasingly rare, as recruiters have an interest in seeing the graft take hold. Moreover, for a high-level position, you need to have a very long arm to succeed in imposing someone.

The network allows you to have access to hidden offers and sometimes to be recommended. Is this recommendation string-pulling? No, because we only recommend this person if he or she fits the position, if we have complete confidence in him or her. It is not imposed: if another candidate is better, he or she will be recruited. 

It is therefore important to understand that when you substitute string-pulling for quality networking, you are showing bad faith, jealousy... 

With this important distinction out of the way, let's dive into the heart of the matter.

What Does Networking Mean?

Networking is simply the art of building, nurturing and activating your own network. The professional network is the set of peers, colleagues and acquaintances that you know and can contact in the course of your work. 

What is the purpose of this famous network? It is the keystone of a flourishing professional life. 

It serves both to : 

- Develop your knowledge, by learning from your peers or other people

- Explore the hidden job market by accessing offers before they are published or to apply for a job by being recommended

- Or, on the contrary, to recruit your future colleagues 

- Develop your business or freelance activity 

- Find new prospects and clients 

- Build partnerships

- Select suppliers

- Nurture your relationships, whether you are employed, self-employed, an entrepreneur or even, who knows, retired... because man is a social animal!

In short, whatever our professional situation, the network is a powerful tool. But you have to know how to activate it and avoid its pitfalls, so you don’t play yourself in the eyes of its members.

Networking: The Don’ts

Let's get to the heart of the matter with the common mistakes made when networking. Remember them well to avoid leaving a bad impression and never being contacted again. 

In his book, Hervé B lists the mistakes made by beginners: 

  • Making contact when you are still angry or in mourning with your former company. You are looking backwards, fragile, and your contacts can feel it.

  • Not being clear about your professional project and therefore not being able to communicate clearly about it. We are not ready, not credible... We don't give people the desire.

  • Looking for a job at any price, quickly. But who is capable of finding a job for someone, especially if they don't know it well or at all?

Reading this networking expert, one understands other common errors. In a nutshell:

  • Networking is NOT a one-way street. For a network to work, you have to give as much as you get. If possible, before you receive. 

  • Breaking someone's trust by not keeping a promise or sending an untrusted peer. 

Networking: The Best Practices

So how do you build and nurture your network effectively? 

1. Respect the values of the network

The key value of the network? T.R.U.S.T. I send Y to Z if I have full confidence in her or him and if I think he will bring something to the table. There is nothing worse than getting negative feedback on someone you have introduced to a contact. It undermines trust with your intro but also the person you sent it to!

Trust is built around other values, such as mutual respect, courtesy, tact, generosity, reciprocity, loyalty and discretion. 

When meeting people, active listening, solidarity and empathy will make you not a network robot but a sensitive and solutions-oriented person with whom you can build strong relationships. 

2. Build a crystal-clear professional project 

It cannot be repeated often enough, networking with a flawed project is ineffective and detrimental to your personal branding. 

You can use the network to validate your project. In this case, you contact professionals and tell them that you need their opinion to know if what you imagine for your career is viable. Once you have clearly defined what you want to do, apply these simple rules: 

  • Communicate about one project. Do you want to do different activities? Make sure they fit into a coherent whole that you can talk about in no more than 2 sentences.

  • Keep it silly simple. Simplify your project and use simple, well-known job titles. The more complex you make it, the less likely you are to be memorable. 

  • Work on your elevator pitch. You should be able to communicate your project clearly in 10, 30 seconds and 1 minute. Work in front of a mirror, recording the audio on your phone. Show this pitch to your closest network before releasing it into the wild.

3. Be clear about your target 

Choosing means giving up. You will not be able to meet everyone.

Don't risk going around in circles without a goal, ask yourself the right questions to meet the people who will help you advance professionally: 

  • What is the list of companies that interest me?

  • Who should I meet in these companies? (Leave the HRs in peace!)

  • Which person in my close network can help me access this second network and what can I bring to him or her in exchange? 

Think about : 

  • Creating a spreadsheet of your dream companies, prospects, contacts 

  • Forcing yourself to make one networking appointment per week 

  • Passing on job offers, articles, resources that may be of interest to others in a selfless way

4. Ask for what you can get: anything but a job!

Save yourself a lot of loneliness and embarrassment from your interviewers, never ask for a job

Instead, ask for... 

  • Information (job, sector, market…)

  • Advice, an opinion on a specific subject or your project’s validation

  • Sharing hard-skills

  • Contacts and intros 

  • Partnership ideas

  • A profile on a specific vacancy

  • Or simply connecting to learn about each other’s activities.

If you are pertinent, respect the networking rules and don't allow yourself to beg for a job or a recommendation, it will probably come by itself. That’s the way it goes!

5. Keep in touch and say 'thank you’

Did you get an intro, info, reco? You might be tempted to forget to inform your initial contact. Wrong! He or she wants to know if the meeting was successful and to be thanked. 

It will take you 5 minutes, at the same time as you do the follow-up with your new contact (to say thank you for his or her time and send the resources mentioned) to send a little note to the person who made the introduction. 

You can, depending on your level of familiarity, do this by email or LinkedIn message, by SMS or Whats'App, or even pick up the phone.

"Hi Y, thanks again for connecting with Z. You hit the nail on the head, we found plenty of synergies! Don't hesitate if I can return the favour. I hope we can chat / have lunch / coffee soon". 

Why is this crucial? This completes your networking, gives you an additional opportunity to connect with that person and will leave them with an even better opinion of you. 

Where Does Networking Happen IRL?

Networking can take many forms. In person, it can take place: 

  • In the office, in a coworking space, in an incubator 

  • In a café, in a restaurant 

  • At a recruitment event 

  • At a professional event (conference, etc)

  • At events specifically dedicated to networking, for example within a school alumni network

Woody Allen once said what he thought he owed his success to: 'I showed up'. 

Don't underestimate the power of the IRL meeting. 

Where Does Networking Happen Online?

Online networking can be done: 

  • During informal video-conference cafés 

  • On LinkedIn instant messaging or directly in the comments (tagging someone on a job offer, for example)

  • At online events: conferences, summits

  • On Whats'App or Signal alumni groups

You see, you have no excuse for skipping your networking routine.

Do I Need Business Cards?

The short answer: yes and no. 
When you network in person, a business card can help your interviewer remember you, especially if they have met many people in a short time. You can also offer to add them on LinkedIn, and send them a follow-up message. This will have the same effect. 

I would say that if you are an entrepreneur or in a stable position, the business card is useful. In other cases, an updated and attractive LinkedIn profile will be a good start. 

Bonus: How Long Will Networking Take? 

You now know what's in it for you in networking. But will you have the time? 

In her Ted Talk on Time Management, Laura Vandekam explains that time is elastic and that you put in what you prioritise. We advise you to make room for networking. 

The initial stake is a little higher than the cruising speed. But it is well worth it. Once your network is established, maintaining it will become a reflex, second nature. It will only take you a few minutes a day and a couple of 1 hour meetings a month. And it will pay you back a hundredfold, guaranteed.

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