Interview Even If

People talk about networking in business all the time and with good reason. When I first got into the Marriott School of Management, my business network was virtually non-existent. But I started interviewing for jobs and meeting new people. I trusted that it was important to build a network, but I didn’t quite see how to do it well.

Now that a couple years have gone by, I’ve started to see the benefits of a network more and more. More recently, I’ve seen the benefits from a specific kind of networking that has coincidently occurred from interviewing.

Anecdote #1

Sometime last year I interviewed for a developer position with a new startup. I was really open with the founders and told them I didn’t have a lot of experience, but that I am passionate about development and design. They emailed me about a week later and told me they found someone else. No hard feelings.

About a week ago, I ran into one of the founders again. He had recently read my blog post about my internship with Pariveda and it piqued his interest. When I ran into him he asked me to tell him all about it. He proceeded to tell me his project is going well and is about ready to launch, but he’s looking for another developer. I told him I was currently in the market for a developer position. While our conversation didn’t turn into a job offer, we did start talking about other ideas and entrepreneurship in general. Now we have plans to meet again and do some more talking about other projects and ideas.

It was that initial interview that we made the connection and now we maintain regular contact since our second encounter.

Anecdote #2

Two years ago, I interviewed for an internship opportunity with Pariveda Solutions. I got rejected. They had limited slots and I just wasn’t what they were looking for. I had spent a lot of time speaking to the recruiters and getting to know people.

Last year, I reapplied for the internship and got an offer. My interviewer was someone I had previously gotten to know really well. Apparently, I had made a good impression because they remembered me and noticed that I had continued to build my skills since I had last interviewed with them. Now I’m planning to start working for them full time come August 2013.

Lesson Learned: Interview Even If

There are a number of other accounts that come to mind. I can also think of a few that may turn into future opportunities. But now I’m seeing first-hand why networking–making connections, maintaining connections, having something to offer–is important. I think that interviewing can be a valuable, coincidental way to network.

To be clear, I am not condoning interviewing as the purpose or primary means of networking. Networking isn’t the point of interviewing and interviewing shouldn’t be your primary means of establishing a network. You shouldn’t waste a company’s time (or your time) interviewing if obtaining employment with that company isn’t your intention. There are more effective ways to network. However, time spent interviewing and establishing connections can be an effective, secondary means of networking as demonstrated by my two anecdotes.

Interview even if you don’t feel 100% qualified for the job (you want). Interview even if you’re not sure it will work out for whatever reason. Interview even if you’re apprehensive. Interview even if. It may be appropriate to self-select yourself out of an interview, but also consider the grander scheme of things. Don’t eliminate yourself when you still have a chance or there is something to be gained. Getting your name out there and making connections is worth your time. Finding ways to leverage those connections after the fact, in another context, is where the return comes into play. Maybe you learn something about the company during the interview that will affect a future venture. Maybe it’s a person or multiple people you meet. Maybe you interview again later and they see your growth. It has been in my case.