Are You a Guest or a Host?

Mar 23, 2012 by

Are You a Guest or a Host?

Why isn’t networking working for you?

Been told that 80% of jobs are filled through networking but it’s just not working for you? It’s a stat that job-seekers just cannot ignore yet in my experience many make the mistake of doing just that. ‘Working’ a room or meeting strangers can be a nightmarish prospect for many, and in too many cases prompts folks to adopt the ostrich-like head-in-the-sand approach to this aspect of their job-search. It’s one of the most common problems I have to help people overcome, but from where do our hang-ups about networking stem?

We’re all afraid of strangers.

Do you remember as a child being told that you should never talk to strangers? Quite right too. It was drilled into us by our parents to keep us safe from harm. And there’s probably some ancient instinct at work too that makes us wary of encounters with people unfamiliar to us. But now you need to network and the rules have changed – and you should be talking to strangers, albeit selected ones. The problem is we’re conditioned against it and to cap it all most of us are pretty uncomfortable with the prospect of rejection. Good news is, there are things you can do to help you overcome your conditioning…

Adopting certain behaviours will help you network better.

Ever been a guest at a dinner party or other function? What do you do? You wait for someone to take your coat and then to offer you a drink. You may then stand lonely and uncomfortable while you are introduced to fellow guests. That wait can seem interminable – and boy is that a relief when you find yourself talking to somebody and no longer feel like the conspicuous loner. The host plays an important role in that respect…

Hosts make guests feel included and comfortable; they use their insider knowledge to connect and start conversations between strangers by drawing attention to mutual interests, likes, dislikes, backgrounds etc. The host has the power to help us avoid awkward conversation or the embarrassment of appearing to be a ‘Billy No Mates’ – and consequently becomes the person guests will seek out first.

Hosts occupy a more powerful position than guests. If your confidence is one of the biggest barriers to you networking effectively, ensure you attend functions and events with the mindset of a host.

7 Things you can do to boost your confidence…

Consider adopting the following strategies (the list isn’t exhaustive) when attending functions:

#1 Get there early.

#2 Inconspicuously greet new people as they arrive.

#3 Be helpful: use the knowledge you have gained of the terrain to guide new arrivals to food and drink or any other facilities they require.

#4 Engage with people you meet by finding out about them and their interests.

#5 Use your new-found knowledge of fellow attendees to connect people, or provide conversation starters, preferably relevant or current, using stories you have thought of in advance

#6 Look for the awkwardly embarrassed loner and try to save them by introducing them to your new found friends and bringing them into the conversation.

#7 Bid farewell to guests as they depart, but not before you’ve arranged some kind of follow up.

DO NOT give up if your first attempts fail.

Failure hurts. And the stinging feeling of rejection – or even just the risk of suffering it – prompts many job-hunters to give up ‘networking’ after only a few attempts.

True, your first efforts may well feel uncomfortable and embarrassing, but it’s amazing what a little practice can do. You will never discover this for yourself though unless you have the will to persevere a little. Here are three good reasons why you should give yourself a chance:

#1 Most sales occur after FIVE follow ups by a salesman. Likewise, networking for job-hunters isn’t about meeting a stranger and disappearing over the horizon as soon as you’ve established that there’s no immediate way they can help you or you them. It’s often just the start of a much longer relationship-building exercise that could result in a ‘sale’ i.e. job offer at some point in the future.

#2 Most of us harbour fears of meeting new folks and of rejection. Developing and  perfecting ‘host’ behaviours will make you stand out in a room full of these folks and will inevitably increase the chance of you becoming one of those networking magnets that people flock to.

#3 In case you already forgot what we said: 80% of jobs are found through networking. If you want to keep your job-hunt as short as possible, effective networking must form a hefty part of your job-search strategy. You cannot ignore it.

What do you think?

If you’re open to sharing your experiences and thoughts, or want to share what you’ve learnt with other job-hunters, why not get in touch or post your thoughts in the comments box below?


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