Networking is the process of communicating with people about what you are doing and where you want to go in your career. It is all about relationships—establishing and maintaining ones that can help you achieve your career goals.
It is not a process exclusively related to seeking new employment. It is also a very important component of everyday work, advancement, and generally getting ahead in your current organization, as well as moving toward your career and life goals.
In practical effect, networking means:
telling others your story in a compelling way that makes them want to help you;
asking them for advice and suggestions from their life and career experience that you can apply to your own circumstances;
remembering that networking can be a two-way street—it does not have to mean always being the supplicant–asking for something for nothing. In the back of every networking contact’s mind is the “Don Corleone Effect:” Someday, you may be able to do something for your contact. Networking does not always mean an immediate quid-pro-quo, but implies that there may be some future consideration flowing in the other direction; and developing new contacts beyond your core group.
What it is Not
Networking is not asking for a job. In the rare, serendipitous event that your contacts actually have jobs available and consider you a suitable candidate for them, they will certainly tell you.
Bluntly asking for a job can invite rejection. Once you have inadvisably “popped the question” you have probably closed the door to further useful communications with that contact. It is too awkward on all sides to press the relationship further.
Why Do It?
Professional and personal contacts can provide rich source of job leads, potential employment opportunities, endorsements of your candidacy, and entrées to prospective employers.
In the impersonal world that traditional job-hunting has become, networking is the last opportunity for all-important face-to-face contact.