Are you getting the itch? You know, the one where you show up at work every day, but you’re just not feeling it anymore. On the other hand, you don’t want your employer to find out you’re not happy. You like this job enough, especially the paycheck that comes with it. That car payment needs to be made!
So, what’s your escape plan? How can you get out there, network and look for new opportunities without your employer finding out?
Make networking something you do not just during the bad times, but during the good times as well. When you’re known as a networker, it’s perfectly normal for your boss to see you eating lunch with strangers, going to meetings for professional groups and joining organizations that further your career. It’s also normal to see you volunteer time for causes you support. Some of the best networking takes place among like-minded people.
The more you reach out to others, the more people you’ll connect with and know. “Relationship before task” is good advice that I got while pursuing my master’s degree. It means that first you form relationships, and then you ask for favors.
Too many people wait until they’re desperate for a new job, then go out to network while coming from a very needy place. Neediness is a turn-off, and potential employers can smell it a mile away. Offer a favor before you ask for one. And always be ethical — no taking company material for a competitor in order to gain ground.
Here are three ways to get your network started:
1. Block out some time
How much time are you willing to devote to networking? Is lunchtime networking available to you, or evenings only? Are breakfast meetings an option? How many days a week?
Remember, this is a long-term plan. You may start out networking every night of the week, but it’s not sustainable over time — not without relationships or other areas of your life suffering. It can also be expensive. How much time and money are you willing to spend?
2. Choose your method
Do you prefer face-to-face networking or online networking through social media? Are you ready to go to meetings alone? How many people can you stand in a room before it makes you crazy?
I prefer to connect through social media like LinkedIn and then set up a time to meet. I also meet people initially at networking functions and reach out afterward for coffee. If you can’t do face-to-face meetings, try Skype, FaceTime, Tango or Google Hangouts. It’s important to make eye contact and read body language, which you can’t do via email.
There is a methodology to writing professional emails and choosing your appearance and background on video. Understand that each and every step you take may be remembered, and you’ll want that first impression to be a great one.
3. Find your tribe
Who do you want to connect with? Think about the kind of people you’d like to have as coworkers. Where do they hang out? Are they at industry conferences and groups, or do they do volunteer work? Are they in your master’s program? Can you reach out to someone via LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook? What about “accidental networking,” which can come from meeting someone at an unexpected place like the grocery store, gym or a hiking group?
From there, just start networking! By making it an everyday occurrence, you keep your reputation and skills sharp. It becomes a way of life. And then, when that itch creeps in, you’ve already got an active network that’s there for support and guidance. Networking is funny—it’s a web, not a straight line. Often the connections come from the oddest places.
One last thing…
Karma is a b***, and you get what you give. Always, always be professional, ethical and on the top of your game.
Whether you realize it or not, people are always watching and judging. Every interaction is a potential job interview. The best way to get that call for a great new position is to be the first person someone thinks of before they post that opening.
Now, go get ‘em!
Laurie D. Battaglia is a career and leadership coach and Co-Owner of Living the Dream Coaches, LLC in Scottsdale, AZ. She coaches high-achieving women and men who want more out of life, work and relationships. Laurie is a blogger, speaker, consultant and leader. She writes for various online blogs and has been quoted on career and workplace issues in national and international publications. Find out more about Laurie and her company here or like them on Facebook.