Dear Sir or Madam, You Suck at Networking.

It’s weird right?

You worked hard at getting good grades and participating in extracurricular activities in school to differentiate yourself from your classmates so that your college application would stand out. You took the time to painstakingly select the perfect major that best sets you up for career success when you get out of college so you can leverage your freshly minted knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem on your job interview. Heck… maybe you even bowed down to the financial aid gods and were mercifully allowed to pursue a graduate degree in your field so you were that much more differentiated as a candidate on the open market! These are the lengths that people have gone to to better their careers, but when the time actually comes to fire off that resume to the HR Department of your dreams and you’re penning the cover letter, I’m betting you’ll do a quick Google search that ends up with you lost in a time sink of reading random Wikipedia articles or watching cat videos. Fact.

In part one of this series of blogs on how you’re all terrible at networking, we’re going to up your game on network stalking which is different than actual stalking, an activity I don’t recommend because it seems like a lot of work, but mostly because it’s illegal.

A great resume has to be attached to a great networking email which needs to have an incredible subject line which all needs to find its way into the actual inbox of the actual person you want to read it. Think of that whole process for a second. Let’s equate it to a river meandering through its banks. The water that takes the path of least resistance is the water that gets downstream the quickest right? Well, in this case… downstream is the trash. We want to be the water that’s chillin’ for a while in an eddy here or there, making sure that we’re meandering along, but also making sure we’re getting as much time at each whirlpool to build our networks.

How many times have you ever found a bottle with a note in it floating in a body of water?

Once, twice if you’re lucky? How many times do you drink water? Right. All the time. If we look at the water as an example of excellent networking, we’ll see that very often, the water brings us something (water), and very rarely does it want something from us (like a message to deliver in a bottle). So to effectively build a network, we should focus on providing them intrinsic value even before we ask them for something. But how do we know what they value? Well, this is where social media can play a huge role!

As an example, let’s assume you’re trying to get a job with us here at the EI, but there are no jobs posted. Your first step of course should be to try and find us through our professional networks like LinkedBook, or Facetube or whatever and see if you’re able to connect. Because of the way these networks work, you may not be able to directly connect, and that’s ok! There’s a good chance that you can see some of the interesting things that we’ve been working on though. Maybe we have something in common like a connection, or a project, or an interest that might lead you to fall back on your own personal and professional networks. You might see that DC is an avid cyclist which would be great for you because you’re an avid cyclist as well. Maybe you can find some tweets, or posts, or events that you’re both active participants in. You can become active in retweets, sharing articles, maybe even asking around your cycling community to see if someone you have a personal connection with has a shared connection with him/me that can introduce you to me, or him… whatever. From there it’s literally as simple as walking up and introducing yourself within the common interest. Now, your goal here shouldn’t be to ask for a job (especially since there isn’t a job there to ask for), it should be to build a relationship by bringing water to your network and establishing a relationship through your common interest. Eventually, you’ll be able to ask them for career guidance and when that job does come along, you’re going to have a much greater opportunity to secure an interview. Let’s be sure we don’t lose that last point though. Your goal is to start building that network foundation by contributing to the network rather than simply taking from the network. When you’re building your network, you want to make sure you’re the one bringing the value!

Now, the million dollar question you’re all no doubt asking yourselves is… “But DC, what if we don’t have anything in common to that level?” Well my friends, fear not because next blog we’ll be addressing your terrible, terrible networking emails!

Tweet us some of your best networking email subject lines in the comments for the next blog @NCStateEI

About the Author

Tweet DC @HeySeeDC He doesn’t use twitter, but instead has an account that is roughly analogous to his real life digital persona.

DC is however a real live person that works in the Garage at NC State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative. He is a contributor for their blog which they apparently thought was a good idea. In his spare time he likes to set the margins on documents he’s printing using a set of digital calipers. He also wrote this entire bio himself, in the third person.