Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Another post about networking

Whether you are already an expat in Denmark or whether you are still thinking of moving to Denmark, you will probably have read on every single expat website the importance of building a network. My blog is not excluded from this - I have mentioned in past posts about the job hunt that networking is important. The thing is, you read about building networks so much that it almost seems like flippant advice. Take it from me, though - it's not flippant. It genuinely is important.

How do I find work in Denmark? 
<insert generic job sites>, <government websites>, oh, and networking is important.
Oh. No new info, I guess.

So yes, many many posts on why networking is important in your job hunt, but fewer posts on how to do it. When I have mentioned the importance of networking to people in person, I can see that they have heard that advice many times and it is often met with a slight nod of the head, a yes-I-have-heard-that-already answer, or even an eye roll (this actually happened to me once). But what the eye-roller and many others didn't and don't seem to realise is that by talking to me and/or others, be it at language school or an expat event, they are networking. Every time you shake hands with somebody new, every time you are introduced to somebody even in a casual way, every time you chat with people at language school, you are networking.

Take the eye-roller. That irritated me. I had been asked a question and I had tried to give practical advice, which was met with what I think is an incredibly rude gesture. But what if I had actually been in a position to help this person? As far as this lady was concerned, I was just another expat in Denmark at language school, learning the complicated language that Danish is. But for all she knew, I could have worked in recruitment. She could have had the skill set for a job I was trying to fill. But after being met with that attitude, I didn't really want anything further to do with her other than be civil. It's the way I feel about bad service - treat me badly and I will put up with a bad waiter (for example) for as long as I am forced to, but once our time is over I will not come back and certainly not recommend the establishment. I'll give another example closer to what we're talking about, in one of my old jobs I had an assistant. She started out well but then started to come in late, started to come back from lunch nearly drunk and then got into the habit of coming in hungover. She soon left, and I was relieved. A few months down the road she applied for a job where a lady worked with whom I had a very strong professional relationship with strong mutual trust. She had gotten the CV and saw the old workplace, where she knew I worked. She called me for a recommendation and of course I could not give a glowing one, after the behaviour I had seen. We call that burning bridges.

Don't get me wrong. I understand the frustrations of job hunting in Denmark and I know it's difficult - I was unemployed for seven months with very little to apply for, let alone have a chance of interview. However, even if you have heard the old networking advice for the umpteenth time do not eye-roll, do not dismiss -  for when you are talking, no matter where you are, you are networking without realising.

Still with me? Good.

So yes, I believe that you are nearly always networking. Whether posting on an expat forum, LinkedIn (especially if you are posting on LinkedIn), going along to an expat event or language school then you are networking.

Please do not get sucked into the downward spiral of moaning and eye-rolling, no matter how frustrated you are with the job search as, again, you do not know who might be able to help you. You won't be able to help feeling frustrated but use this energy in the search for a job. I got SO frustrated but every knock back just made me more determined. I got rejected from one job after the first interview stage and when I spoke to the interviewer for feedback I asked him at the end of the conversation if he minded me adding him on LinkedIn and he was happy to oblige - as I kept it professional and friendly, I knew that if I heard of another opening in that company then I would be able to contact him and ask him about it.

And what would a blog post of mine be without a list? Here's a very quick guide on how to network at different places.

1. LinkedIn (ok, so you may have read this before - I always write about it)
- Join Denmark based groups relevant to your job field
- Introduce yourself and explain your career experience but do NOT use this introduction to ask for a job
- Participate in discussions - this is your chance to shine and show off your knowledge. By doing this you are getting your name out there and showing the Danish job market what you are made of and what you can offer
- beg for a job in your first post
- simply click 'Add Connection' without any personal message as you will more than likely be ignored, and I fully agree with this. I hold my hands up as guilty for when I first arrived - I thought that simply by trying to add people in similar circles that I would really up my network. Some people added me without questioning but one day somebody simply said: "we have a policy of not connecting with people we do not know" - was taken aback at first but I now agree. Networking is not just about having 500+ on LinkedIn - it's about what you do with the existing ones you have, and building up quality contacts over time - not quantity.

2. Expat events*
- If, like me, you are a member of InterNations then try to research who will be at the event
- Again referring to InterNations, message one of the guests to tell them that you noticed they worked for Company X/have experience in Y/etc .. and would they like to meet at the meet up for half an hour? There, you can exchange email addresses and LinkedIn info
- For all expat events; look for somebody on their own. They will be willing to talk to you and it will be less scary than trying to infiltrate a group conversation. Introduce yourself confidently, smile, explain what brought you to Denmark, what you are doing now, and what you would like to do in the future. Perhaps they know somebody ...
- Firm handshake. Always a firm handshake.
- If there are no meet-up groups that suit you, why not start your own? I met a very good professional contact of mine via a marketing professionals meet up group that he started. Before I got my permanent job I was seriously considering going freelance - I happened to mention this to him and he suggested that he make some introductions for me (two weeks after that conversation I got a permanent job but it is a good connection to have there)
- stand alone. Do not wait for people to come to you but at the same time, do not force yourself on a group either. Introduce yourself with "hi, would you mind if I joined you?" - nobody will mind.
- get into the habit of slagging off Denmark. No matter how you feel about the place, this is not the time nor place to do it.

3. Language school
- Smile!
- Talk to your classmates in the break. Put down your phone and talk to people. Get to know them. Eventually you'll know what their professional background is, they'll know yours, you can exchange details for Facebook but also get their LinkedIn details. Use each others' networks. Who knows who knows who.
- see the second DO NOT under 'Expat events'. Although language school is more relaxed, if you get into the habit of slagging off Denmark/Danes with others, you'll get sucked down into a negative spiral and it'll start to show in the way you present yourself. By all means, voice a frustration but come back with a solution: "I feel X way, but to rectify this, I shall do Y .. " etc.

4. Online forums inc. expat groups on Facebook
- similar to LinkedIn. Introduce yourself and give a little bit about your professional background, why you are in Denmark
- start a relevant thread that is relevant for you. Do not piggy back onto the back of somebody else's thread. Otherwise who exactly are responders supposed to give advice to?
- always acknowledge when somebody has replied to you. Remember that nobody is obliged to give you any advice so when they do, thank them for it. When people ignore my advice on online forums, it is tantamount to the eye rolling girl - I do not like it as I believe this to be rude, and will be very unlikely to help them again (I will however give the poster the benefit of the doubt as they may have not seen it the first time)
- ignore people's advice

There you go. It's been (another) long post, but I hope you found it useful. Any other tips please leave below.