If you hate networking, you’re probably going about it the wrong way.
Steve Cadigan, who was LinkedIn’s VP of Talent before he founded his own firm Cadigan Talent Ventures in 2012, tells Business Insider that, while networking is not optional in today’s job market, it’s also not at hard as it seems.
People tend to envision networking as attempting to make small talk with a bunch of strangers at a cocktail party, he says, which is a mistake.
“Don’t visualise the cocktail party,” Cadigan says. “Even if you’re an extrovert, no one likes going somewhere where they don’t know a single person. It’s awkward. To me, it’s like a blind date. How often does that work? It’s like the lottery.”
Cadigan says that it’s also a mistake to think about networking as simply going out and exchanging business cards with strangers.
For Cadigan, the best approach to networking is cultivating connections you already have.
“It could be your tennis coach. It could be your history professor. It could be your senior thesis advisor. It could be so many people,” he says. “You’ve got to start somewhere.”
Even recent graduates can start laying down the groundwork for a successful network, Cadigan says.
“When you graduate, you have hundreds of classmates that know you,” he says. “Your network’s already started. That may not feel valuable at this point, but it will be down the road. Keep in touch with your friends. Find out what they’re doing. Help them, if you can. It will pay off.”
Cadigan says that, aside from his first job out of college, he’s gotten every single job he’s had through a connection.
In fact, many companies prefer to hire candidates who come in with vibrant professional networks, as it demonstrates their hustle and ability to make connections, he says. It also makes it easier for employers to identify and even poach other strong candidates.
As an employer, “I want someone who’s going to be resourceful,” Cadigan says. “If they have got a good network, which I can see on LinkedIn or Facebook if they’re willing to open the doors to me to look at their Facebook, that’s very valuable.”
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