During the personal branding workshops I host, I often ask my audience members how they landed their most recent job. Having surveyed thousands of these mid-level professionals to senior executives across various industries, geographies, and functions, I’ve consistently observed that the most common way people find jobs is through networking rather than job-boards, direct applications, or even recruiters.
The problem is, networking is hard work. Sitting behind your laptop and applying to a bunch of roles in response to online job postings is one thing. Actually taking the initiative to put yourself out there to have face-to-face conversations with people you don’t know for the sake of relationship building is another.
Creating new contacts takes patience, persistence, and effort. Here are three of the most common frustrations I hear from my clients about networking and why it pays to stick with it anyway.
1. People don’t always respond
Whether you’re reaching out to a cold contact you found on LinkedIn, a contact you met at an event, or a person whose business card you got at a conference, people aren’t always great at responding. Your efforts to connect with someone can often feel like it’s falling on deaf ears.
However, networking is really about forming the right connections with the right people who respond in the right way. That only happens when you do enough outreach to hopefully cross paths with individuals who value new professional relationships and may have a willingness to continue the conversation. Don’t feel too down about the people who don’t respond and instead focus your energies on those who do.
2. Concrete progress isn’t guaranteed
Most of my clients who invest energy in meeting with others do so with the hope of eventually opening up professional opportunities, but that just doesn’t always happen. Even when you take the time to attend networking events or conduct informational interviews, those conversations may end up being dead ends.
However, networking can be a bit of a numbers game, where you need to do enough of it to maximise the chance of being in the right place at the right time to get lucky. You need to continue to keep your relationships warm to maintain some top-of-mind awareness with your contacts. This way, people can think of you if and when the right opportunity arises, which will ultimately make that positive difference in your career you were seeking.
3. It takes a lot of energy and patience
Networking is time consuming. Few shortcuts exist to crafting custom emails, attending events, sitting down for informational interviews, or repeatedly following up with contacts. What you put into networking isn’t always what you get out of it.
While it’s possible for a cold contact to be helpful, more often than not, people only lend a hand after you’ve invested enough time establishing trust and rapport with them. Your willingness to invest into longer-term relationship building, which can take months or even years, is what tends to open doors down the road.
Making networking a habit really can pay off
At times, networking can feel like a time-consuming game, but if you’re willing to look past the moments of frustration, to stay persistent, and to focus on long-term relationship building, you really never know when one of those seeds you planted eventually spouts into an opportunity, often when you least expect it.