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How I accidentally became a networking enthusiast (and why you also should become one)

Monday: organization meeting with my co-founders of the Purple Squirrel Society, Tuesday: Javascript meetup, Wednesday: HR meetup, Thursday and Friday: HR conference. Wait –  am I networking? No, you are networking!

Networking sucks, right?

Before I started working in HR, I always thought that networking is boring and just for shallow, superficial people. People who wear a tie to classes at university.  People with hobbies like fox hunting, shopping or something similarly dreadful. I thought that networking meant cocktail parties, boring small talk (I still hate small talk) and an interest in management books with titles like “Make 1000 friends a week”, “How to influence absolutely everyone!!!!” and “Never go to lunch alone”. Heck, even today I sometimes love to have my lunch alone, especially after a stressful week packed with interviews and meetings. Jon Westenberg sums up my former attitude in his article “Networking sucks. Because people don’t give a shit.

Entering a networking event, you can feel the eyes of every attendee fix on you for a few brief seconds, like a pack of hungry wolves. They come up and shake your hand with a poisonously false enthusiasm, and as soon as they work through a quick calculation and conclude that you’re not “important” their eyes start flickering around the room, looking for their next meal.

No, it’s kinda great

The funny thing is, today I love networking.

After I graduated from university, I moved to Berlin and started working in HR. After a few weeks at my first job, I realized that it would be great to have some other HR professionals from other companies to discuss HR stuff. I started meeting other HR professionals for lunch and quickly realized that it would be even better to meet them on a regular basis. We began to organize a roundtable and few months later, we founded “Purple Squirrel Society” an HR organization in Germany to make networking easier for HR professionals.

So what happened to convert me to an enthusiastic networker? It’s pretty simple: I realized that good networking has nothing to do with business books and small talk. It has nothing to do with handing your business card to as many people as possible. It has something to do with building sustainable relationships. With having an honest interest in other people. With valuing the quality of your network over the size of your network. And with the understanding that everyone has a passion and something interesting to talk about when you ask the right questions. I know, sounds corny, right? But it is true.

Why networking is so crucial for Recruiters

Alright, networking is great. Still – it takes time. A lot of time. So why should we invest this time when we are busy with our daily business?

What is the job of a Recruiter? To hire candidates. But how do we do this? We approach people we don’t know with job postings and direct search messages and try to convince them that our company is way better than this other company they are talking to. People business. Winning “new customers” is hard – ask your colleagues from the marketing department. That’s why businesses invest so many resources into existing customers – and we should do that too.

Candidate network

When we speak to good candidates but we do not have a position for them, we should keep them in our network. Schedule a regular (and short) phone call to catch up with them or meet them for coffee or lunch every few month or so. You won’t have enough time to do that for all of your positions of course, but at least consider doing that for your most crucial positions or the top 5 percent of your candidates. People will come back to you when they are looking for a new job. And they will do that before they apply to any other job. Why should they do that? Because they know you and they like you. Because they know that you like the same sports team, you like to travel to the same locations, or you like the same kind of beer – and because you work for a great company of course.

Internal network

The first thing I always do when I start working with a new hiring manager is to meet him or her for lunch. Why? It not only helps to discuss the basics for a fast and productive hiring process. It also helps me to understand the person who wants to fill the position. What are they passionate about? What kind of people do they like? I can establish rapport and add another important person to my network. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t do that with a cold-hearted strategy. I just like to meet new people – extending my network is a positive side effect to this.

This meeting not only helps you to establish yourself as the to-go person for your hiring manager and to build your internal network. It’s also a major catalyst for your external network. Before I end the meeting I go back to work I ask a question: “Look, I believe the central thing in Recruiting is networking. Should I meet any of your contacts? I am not only looking to meet people for our current vacant position. Just every interesting person that comes to your mind.” Most people are happy to connect you with their friends and professional contacts and the question often leads to interesting new contacts.

Yes, networking can be stressful. Yes, it’s hard to find time for this. But in a future where algorithms and bots will take care of most of the standard processes, it will be our biggest asset.

Featured Image by uberof202 ff



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