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We all know about networking, right? Well, it might be wise in this economy to stop doing it — at least in the way you’ve been probably been doing it.

And why, in this terrible economy, with nothing else on your plate and no job in the future, should you stop networking to find a gig? Because most people do it incorrectly, and they make networking ineffective and unpleasant. More importantly, they don’t get the results they’re looking for — usually the quick sale — and quickly generalize that networking is useless and a waste of time.

Here is the top reason why you shouldn’t network: Nobody wants to buy what you’re selling.

We’ve all experienced people trying to sell their products, services and/or themselves at networking events. In fact, most people attend a networking event because they have an agenda: usually to get something from someone quickly, whether it’s a client, a referral to a hiring manager, or an actual job.

People are handing out resumes and business cards and making mass elevator pitches to each other. No relationships are being built, and everyone is seen as either a quick opportunity or a dead-end. It’s like an old Amway convention. Some people get lucky enough to run into someone naïve who will help a stranger, and most find people who are generally polite in person, but won’t return your phone call or email after the event.

Sound familiar?

It’s no wonder that networking events are experiencing a 25-60 percent downturn in attendance, according to Business Week magazine. The very thought of going to an event where you’ll have to be on selling mode or receiving sales pitches and resumes for three hours is enough to make you call in sick.

So if a job networking event isn’t about scoring a quick gig, why should you even bother putting on a suit and spending hours at Kinko’s updating your resume?

Well for one, candidates, recruiters and hiring managers can meet each other and build relationships which will help everyone in this market .

Here’s the deal; you need to change your mindset from selling to connecting. Connecting is about relating to one another, becoming interested in each other and wanting to help each other reach goals. It’s about caring, generosity, and candor.

When you become interested in others, they take notice and naturally become interested in you. When you care about someone else, they tend to care about you. And lastly, if you’re generous, and try to help them achieve their goals, they tend to reciprocate and want to help you.

So instead of trying to sell yourself — which is very difficult, uncomfortable, and intimidating (especially for introverts) — try connecting instead. It’s natural, feels good, and people will like you more. Heck, maybe they’ll care enough to want to help you and that, my friends, is the point of networking.

Top 10 Job Networking Tips

  1. Focus on networking with your warmest contacts first.
  2. Be generous in sharing ideas, resources and contacts.
  3. Be yourself.
  4. Take a genuine interest in other people, their challenges and their goals (and not just your own needs.)
  5. Focus on the quality of relationships rather than the number of contacts you’ve got.
  6. Keep asking “How can I help you?” rather than “How can you help me?
  7. Share and help others without expecting anything back.
  8. Listen twice as much as you talk.
  9. If you’re not going to follow up religiously, don’t bother networking.
  10. Think long term relationships rather than short term job leads and opportunities.
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