CRCE At the Table Event

We caught up with Linda Eunson, career and executive coach, who was guest speaker at our September ‘At the Table’ networking and career group for women. Linda shared insights into building your social capital.

How will having more social capital give you a competitive advantage?

A 75-year Harvard Grant Study investigated the emotional and physical wellbeing of 268 male graduates from 1939-1944, and the main factors contributing to this. It found that good relationships keep us happier and healthier; not money, not notoriety, not power.

From a work perspective, the importance of building “good” relationships at work goes without saying. A professor from a top business school was able to quantify dollars lost by women who were not part of the boys’ network at a major bank. Another study showed that men are better at building relationships within their company, but less so outside the company. For women it was, generally, the opposite. What this means in terms of finding employment through an external network is that women tend to be in a better position than men.

My experience and other studies show that at least 80% of people find their jobs or business opportunities through some kind of network connection. So, having ‘social capital’ can give you a competitive advantage.

Is there a right way to network?

The word ‘networking’ sometimes has a bad connotation and is interpreted by some as being a transactional event; building relationships is a better term to use. The best way to build relationships is by engaging with an organization that has a purpose that speaks to you. This could be sports, your children’s school, a business organization, or a social organization. Get to know people initially, then volunteer to help. You never know who you might meet.

And, yes, do attend ‘networking’ events, but set your expectations low and go in with the mindset of just taking an interest in people. Go in expecting nothing in return. Look for opportunities to help people or connect them to someone who can help them.

Is there a wrong way to network?

Approaching networking in a transactional way will not likely result in a good outcome. Asking someone to pass on your resume, for example, even if it’s someone you know, is not good practice. Attending a networking event with the mindset of “what will I get out of this”? or specifically targeting a set of people is also not a good practice, not to mention stressful.

How has networking changed in the current digital age?

The advent of social media has made adding people to your network easier. Facebook and LinkedIn, especially, are useful in keeping up with what people are up to. Posting comments on your contacts’ posts is a great way to stay in touch and it keeps you in their memory banks.

LinkedIn is a must if you are looking for a job. Aside from seeing job listings, you can see who you might be connected to at a specific company. This is invaluable since the best way to apply for a job is through a referral from someone who works at the company. Employers are now getting hundreds of applicants for a single job through online applications and can’t possibly look at all of them, so many companies now have employee referral systems. Going through a referral will usually put you at the top of the pile.

What are the top tips for networking effectively?

When reaching out to people on LinkedIn or via email, just ask for advice. Don’t ask for a job or attach your resume. Advice is free and can be flattering. Try to make it clear that a coffee or a chat will be a give and take, not just a take. Think about what you may be able to offer to the person – your experience or a contact that might be helpful to them. When you craft the outreach, make sure that the other person sees that a conversation with you could be valuable to them, too.

- Join an organization that you are passionate about and get involved.

- Just take an interest in people.

- At large networking events, put your “what can I do for them?” hat on. Look for people standing by themselves and go talk to them. They will likely be thrilled!

- If you are an introvert, set yourself a time limit for the event. Make it an hour – you’ll be less exhausted.