When it comes to finding a new job, everyone has different opinions on how to network and make new connections. In many ways, networking is an individual art, but there are common misconceptions many professionals have about the practice. For job seekers, networking can be particularly stressful because there's an unspoken pressure to try and find a new gig. This stress can make networking seem forced or disingenuous, and perhaps causes some people a degree of anxiety. In general, networking – both online and in person – has been so emphasized for job seekers that the process can quickly become inorganic. When myths get perpetuated it only exacerbates the challenge many professionals face. Here are five myths to be aware of when you're networking:
Myth #1: You don't need to network if you're employed
People tend to reconnect with their network when they're on the job hunt, because there's an immediate need. However, you shouldn't only be networking when you're actively looking for a job. Whenever your at a professional event, conference, social gathering or other outing, you can meet people that strengthen your network more generally. After all, you never know when an unexpected opportunity may arise, or when you'll face an unexpected setback. Make networking a consistent priority, rather than a desperate need.
Myth #2: You can't learn to network
Some professionals may simply be convinced they're bad at networking. Sure, some people may seem naturally better at socializing and connecting with others, but if you're not comfortable with networking, it doesn't mean you can't learn. Like anything else, networking takes a fair amount of practice. As you advance in your career, ideally you'll become a networking pro. If you're just entering the workforce, start by mastering your elevator pitch and practice networking with people with which you are familiar.
Myth #3: It's all about how many people you know
Many young professionals make the mistake of focusing on quantity of contacts over quality. This sometimes is particularly apparent in regard to online social networking over platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. While it's great to know a lot of people in your industry and beyond, it won't amount to much if all of those relationships are superficial. Make sure you take the time to really connect with important people in your network and develop genuine, long-lasting relationships.
Myth #4: You only need to hand out business cards
If you just bought a fresh stack of crisp business cards, it may seem like a good idea to throw them out left and right. However, remember this is a two way street – that is, you should be receiving as many business cards as you hand out. What's more, it's important make sure you connect with people after the initial meeting. Once you've received his or her business card, you'll be able to use the contact information to send along an email or request to connect on LinkedIn.
Myth #5: You only need to network in your industry
While making contacts in your industry is extremely important, that doesn't mean you should put up a shield and neglect those in other professions. At the end of the day, the world's a small place and you never know how people are connected. Moreover, you never know when you may be looking for a new opportunity in a different field. In social settings, take the time to talk with those outside of your inner circle, even if you don't work with them directly.