A fortnight back I mentioned about how in career progression initiatives, strategic networking is a great way to create your own brand and to cement it in the minds of peers and professionals who are a part of your industry. Peers & professionals who form the work fabric of the industry and company within which you wish to be a part of. Without it, I’ve asserted that your chances of securing a role has as much chance of success as you winning the lottery. You may win in getting the job you have interest in, but the chances are low.

But what is strategic networking and how do you immerse yourself in it?

Look at an image of the web which a spider weaves.

Is the strength of it’s network woven based on one strand? Woven irrationally? With no strategy in terms of where the network is placed? Done just the minute before it wants it’s own objective achieved?

Yet this is exactly most of us do when we think of networking. Establishing one or two conversations (if any) not multiple ones over a period of time. Done in a muddled way – so we may go to a networking event and come away without having spoken to those who have any relevance to your journey. Done just when we are in between jobs or when we are desperate to leave the job one hates being in currently.

The spider weaves intricate networking patterns which co-join the whole perimeter it intends to cover. It positions itself strategically and hence its web (network) where it believes it will get the greatest result. It knows its target market and then spins the web to capture its target market.

The same applies to anyone developing a networking strategy – one which gets an outcome.

Like the spider build your networks at the same level as the hirer, below, above and around that level. Each individual within that network helps you build a better set of relationships, resulting in a better outcome. Make sure it’s not one strand of communication but a sustained, regular strand of communication over multiple networking sessions with the same individual and with various other individuals in the targeted companies. That helps you build relationships, not a one off contact who forgets you the minute they leave that networking session. Build your personal brand through this. Why do you remember “coke”? You want to be the “coke” in their minds.

Position yourself well within that network. So make sure you identify who those individuals are of interest to you by seeing the Linkedin profiles of those attending the networking event being organised. Make sure you position yourself at these networking events within their circle of conversation. Do some homework around their interests, their role and about them.

Engage them in a two way dialogue but at no stage make it seem you are looking for a job. This is critical. If the discussion centers around your getting a job – it is not relationship building. It is being an opportunist. And while this is the intent, the undertone of this needs to be very, very subtle. So ask to be mentored. Ask for guidance. Ask for anything but a job at a networking event. You do not want to put off your potential hirer and have them try everything in the book to avoid you because the only discussion you can have with them is to milk them for a job.

So like the spider, understand your target and where your target frequents. Build your network wide and strong so the links cannot be broken. Position your web strategically. And above all be patient. So don’t network only when you are desperate. Do this as part of an ongoing strategy.

The evolution of spiders has been going on for 400 million years. They are survivors in what have been tough and good times. You too can be a survivor in what is currently a really difficult job market. The spiders survived 400 million years. You just need to survive till you get the next ideal job you’re after.

You can do it.