Networking is not only the best way to find clients if you are in business; it is also the best way to land your ideal position or find your best job. The challenge, however, is how to network effectively. Making new connections, keeping it warm, or retaining your contacts is not easy. This is because networking is highly counter-intuitive.
You do not develop contacts when you approach people looking for work or to gain something from the relationship. This turns people off, and they tend to shy away from contact. Why is this? By nature, people do not relish being rejected nor be in a position to reject or say no to others. Being asked for help is an uncomfortable position and people shirk from that responsibility.
On the other hand, if they see that you could offer value to them, not only do you become attractive but you also allow them the chance to ask instead of being asked.
Thus, instead of asking if there is a position available for an accountant in their company, present yourself as an “accountant with 10 years of progressive experience and has helped my company cut costs by streamlining and initiating the automation of our disbursement process.” Follow this through with, “I am looking for a company that values innovation and initiative.” The most likely response this approach gets is, “I will keep my ears open for you.” This response is confirmation that the other party has acknowledged your “offering,” but it is non-committal and does not put them in position of responsibility to help you if they choose not to.
You might find just a slight nuance between the two approaches but there is a big impact on the balance of power: YOU adding value to a future company you will work for as opposed to YOU needing work. YOU qualifying the company that you are looking to work for rather than YOU asserting that you are qualified. This puts the power back to you by effectively saying that you have something to offer and you will decide who gets to hire you.
In summary, the best practice in job search is to not ask for a favour. It is to offer your value. It works the same way in networking. Always look for something that you can offer to your contact. Never ask for a favour. After all, what goes around comes around. You will be surprised how people are eager to help once they receive a little favour from you.