Imagine receiving a call or email where someone says, “My name is Jeff and we met two years ago at a conference you attended. You told me about you’re background and we’re now trying to hire someone with you’re experience. Do you have time to meet with a few of us tomorrow evening?”
The person who gets ahead isn’t always the smartest or work the hardest, although those are great ideas to have. People get ahead by being alert to opportunity. Sometimes those are internal to a firm. More often, they are external to your organization.
Thus, you want to put yourself in the position of being found, being remembered as an expert. Networking puts yourself in the position of being remembered or re-discovered by a potential employer who you may have met with previously or may have observed you present at a group or meet at a cocktail party.
It also gives you an advantage over your competition because your capabilities can be vouched for by someone that knows you. This advantage can be the difference between success and failure when you interview.
Recently, a friend was approached about a Director’s position with a large firm by someone who met him three years before at a conference; they had spoken for about 20 minutes and maintained some light contact over the years. Two interviews later, she was hired into a new position and was told, “We spoke with others but you were always the front runner in my mind because I already knew you and wanted to hire you.”
So, you have a choice when you think about networking–be an absolute stranger to a firm and be evaluated and worked over on lots of interviews or be the candidate who is the frontrunner who everyone is evaluated against.