Career Strategy Tips #7 - The Art of Networking
Over 80% of jobs are found, yes, through networking.
Your career should never be static -- but always moving forward. Networking is a critical component of your career progress.
But, are you sure networking is a slam dunk?
You call up a friend and say you are looking for a job, and, does he know of a job for you? And, his response: "oh yeah, I will give it some thought." And, you send him your resume so he can fill up his waste basket.
Or, is it -- "So who are you?"
"I know you want to get together, but why?" "What's in it for me?" she thinks.
Or, is it -- you call up a friend who is thinking -- I know this guy forever. Sure, let's grab a bite..,. and then , oh, so that's what he wanted -- Do I know of a job for him? Hey, I know him socially, but professionally, do I really want to stick my neck out for him?
Are you more than your resume? How can you prove it?
How do you become a solution for a networking contact, rather than a problem?
How do you develop chemistry with someone as you make him/her aware of your strengths?
Every week you must dedicate time to networking -- whether or not you are employed. Think of it as a job, but hopefully a successful and rewarding job. And, critical to this process is taking a pro-active, leadership role in each networking interface.
The following tips should provide some answers to the above questions and make you a more successful networker.
• Whether employed or in transition keep growing your network. Join and participate in professional organizations, groups, associations, etc.. Join on- line professional networking sites. Research and target companies that are expanding, as well as companies that are challenged and may need your skills.
• If you are employed, it means reaching out to individuals internally, as well as connecting and expanding your networking opportunities in the outside world. Even if you are satisfied with your position you should be benchmarking your position and culture vis-a-vis other organizations. You should be interested to learn how your salary compares to similar positions in other organisations, other opportunities, other initiatives, other solutions, other cultures, etc.. We all find ourselves too busy in our jobs to set aside time to network. But, and this is a big but, you must force yourself to regularly program into your schedule networking, and expanding your networking contacts. It is a career momentum must, and will pay off when you least expect it.
For those in career transition. networking and growing your network, should be an important part of every week. Think of yourself as a product, a special brand, that needs to be marketed, and exposed to the greatest number of potential customers.
But first, you must be clear and well-defined as to who you are -- your Brand. (See my article on: "The Power of Your Brand.")
• This is critical -- Networking is a pro-active process. That means taking charge and being in command of each networking opportunity. In order for you to be successful at this you must be clear about career goals and your career accomplishments.
• To be pro-active you need a mini-strategic plan for each networking contact. Be clear about the specific outcome you want from the coffee, drink, lunch, etc..
• One outcome from your meeting is for the other person to feel more positive about you, more supportive. You need to make him/her your ally. To do so, be clear about who you are, your accomplishments, and your career goals. What are you most proud of in your career as it relates to your career progress?
• Always set up a get-together in person. Email or phone is not as effective. Creating chemistry, being persuasive, developing an ally comes about in person.
• Make it about 'them', not about 'you'. (See my "You' vs.. Them" article.) Think about how you can help them re your knowledge, expertise, contacts, etc. that will interest them. Networking is about reaching out to someone else.
• Preparation, including research, is another key component. Not only do you want to know the professional background of the individual with whom you are meeting, but be informed about his/her company including recent news releases.
Also, you should be very clear about what specific companies, organizations that might be of interest to you, and where you would like contacts.
• A big don't is to ask for a job.
Rather, ask for career advice, if appropriate, and discuss your plans. And, here is where preparation comes into play. Always leave a networking meeting with 2-3 new networking contacts. If you have done your research successfully, you will have identified your sweet spot organizations where you do not know anyone but would like to have a contact. So, now that you have made this person your ally -- they are proud to know you and want to be helpful -- it is a perfect opportunity to ask if he/she knows anyone in company X with whom you can connect, or, if not at X, they may know someone at company Y.
Always remember, being specific to someone will usually elicit a specific response. Don't keep it general. Again, lead the conversation to get the results you want.
• Join professional groups and organizations, attend selective networking events -- but stop just pitching fastballs; i.e. with the 'how can you help me'? mindset. Rather, make it -- How can I help you? You will find that the give back to you will actually increase.
• Last, but not least, is your networking list. It should contain at least a few hundred names. That includes, friends, relatives, business associates, school alumni, etc.. Again, by being specific, you will be surprised by the new, career- goal-relevant contacts you will have. Yes, even from that distant aunt or uncle who you haven't spoken to in ten years. You never know until you try.
Networking is an art -- the art of engagement, leadership, focus, and desired results.