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6 Tips About How To Source Passive Candidates

If you are a recruiter or works in the staffing industry, I’m sure you know that passive candidates are usually the best candidates. But passive recruiting is often easier said than done. You’ll have[...]

November 13, 2018

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How to Network Without Seeming Like a Creep

Networking, that dreaded word and the bane of our existence. Most people hate it, and it shows. They go about it in a forced and unnatural manner, making their intentions obvious from the start. But it doesn’t have to be like that. There are plenty of ways to network candidly and effectively – without coming across as a weirdo.

Networking: A New Definition

You know that feeling when you can tell someone is only talking to you because they want something? It’s…gross, right? That’s how most people perceive networking, and honestly, I don’t blame them. Networking seems to be more of a use-and-forget resource these days, where most people are concerned about getting ahead and using their contacts just for that. It mainly consists of people coming out of nowhere to either work an angle or get a favor. These people inevitably come off as either overly aggressive, or creepy, or both.

Mike Steib, the wildly successful CEO of XO Group (known for The Knot and The Bump), has written a book, The Career Manifesto, to help us networking newbies get ahead of the pack. Keep in mind, Steib is a self-proclaimed introvert; he dreads networking as much as the next guy. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, he wants to change the way we think about networking: it should be about turning the strangers in our lives into valuable and cherished connections.

Steib’s vision proposes that people have four types of networks, all of which are arrayed in concentric rings around them. These circles - The Meaningful, The Intimate, The Familiar, and The Unfamiliar - each have networking potential. To properly network, you need to bring people in closer, one circle at a time. In other words, you need to make real connections with people; you need to eradicate the “how can I get ahead” mindset and focus on them, not yourself.

Approaching the Unfamiliar (and Even the Familiar)

The Unfamiliar Network is easy to define: it’s the strangers among us. The closest to you will most likely be the easiest to bring in - your neighbors, coworkers, and any others in your broad social circle that consists mostly of awkward head nods or waves and not much else. This also includes those seemingly unreachable contacts in your social media networks.

As an independent recruiter, you likely rely heavily on social media for most of your networking opportunities. It can be daunting to reach out to a stranger on the internet. Heck, it can even be daunting to reach out to someone you kind of know on the internet. But, if you want to expand your circles, you’ll need to create rapport with these strangers and acquaintances. Easier said than done, right? No worries, here are some helpful tips:

  • Be genuine, always. Whether you’re approaching a new neighbor or emailing a LinkedIn influencer, be yourself. Be warm and friendly, of course, but be yourself. It’s easy to tell when someone is putting on a façade or trying to force a connection; you’ve probably experienced it yourself once or twice. Don’t be that person. If you’re reaching out to someone online, spend a few minutes crafting a thoughtful, friendly email that’s short and to the point – you’ll hear back from them if they’re interested in getting to know you.

  • Keep the conversation brief and pleasant. Introduce yourself and include a personal detail. This will encourage others to respond in kind. Keep your ears pricked (or eyes, if you’re emailing) for interests that you can explore later, should the conversation continue. Similar living situations, acquaintances, industries, or personal interests are all excellent conversation starters.

  • Effective networking is best done face-to-face. Keep an eye on the person’s body language. It goes without saying that yours should be open and welcoming, but theirs is more important. If you get the sense that they’re not up for conversation, don’t persist. Someone who’s uncomfortable conversing will signal by crossing their arms, frequently breaking eye contact, or taking a few steps back to create distance. You might also pick up on a generally disinterested or awkward vibe. In any case, don’t be afraid to end an unwanted conversation by excusing yourself politely and with a handshake.

Fostering Intimate and Meaningful Friendships

The secret to nurturing a blossoming friendship is a healthy balance of give and take. This goes for conversation, too. A personal touch is key. You need to show genuine interest and caring if you want to create a personal network of deep relationships and friendships. Here’s how:

  • Listen. Like, really listen. All too often, we tend to make conversations about ourselves; it comes naturally to us because it’s easier to talk about ourselves than anything else. There will be a time for that, but the early stage of a friendship is not that time. As an independent recruiter, connecting with candidates requires making an effort to understand them better. If they use unfamiliar terms or ideas, make sure to research them. Knowledge is power in this field, and knowing your candidate better will bring them closer.

  • Similarly, look for teaching opportunities. Teaching someone about something they’re interested in strengthens the bond between you. Now, I’m not telling you to break out the chalkboard and start writing a lesson plan. Simply sharing information or experience about a topic they enjoy is enough. If you find an interesting article or white paper on their subject of interest, send it along. This shows that you know what they are focused on and are interested in broadening their knowledge base. Sharing is caring, after all.

  • Most importantly, be there when it matters, and don’t let friendships fizzle out. Maintaining a friendship takes work. That means offering support during the good times and the bad. It also means checking in occasionally to let them know you’re thinking of them. Thankfully, social media makes it much easier to stay in touch with our friends.

Get by With a Little Help from Your Friends

You’re an independent recruiter, and effective networking is important if you want to further your career. But when you do something every day for work, it can be easy to fall into bad habits or take shortcuts. Remember, you’re building a network of friends and important people, not just creating a list of “contacts.” And while none of this information is groundbreaking, implementing it isn’t easy. So, start small, but keep at it, and you should start seeing those results sooner than you think.

 

Scott Giroux
Scott Giroux
A long-time innovator with extensive leadership experience, Scott served on the executive team of a leading North American staffing firm prior to joining our team. At Crowdstaffing, Scott leads the company’s global operations and account management team and also drives growth of the talent supplier side of Crowdstaffing’s hiring marketplace. "There is so much untapped potential in our industry I’m thrilled to be part of a movement that is pioneering a connected marketplace for everyone in the hiring ecosystem."
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