Build Your Professional Network Now: Part 1 of 2
How well do you network?
If you follow me, you know I’m a huge proponent of networking for so very many reasons.
Most people don’t take the time to build and follow up with their networks until they need them. This may be too late. 85 to 90% of jobs are acquired through networking…not job boards. That’s an amazing statistic and another huge reason why networking works.
While it’s great to expand your network beyond your company, it’s also just as important to network within. As you build a network in your company, you can get to know leaders, peers, and others.
Personally and professionally, networks can support what you’re doing and help you to do it better. This is basically a group of people with whom you can connect and share professional experiences and common interests.
Once you have your network built, you want to continue to work on the relationships within. Work your network and keep in touch daily
I know that networking is one of those things that many people just never seem to find the time for. Or maybe you think of it as something for those extroverts among us, but not for you. Networking is really a skill that you can strengthen and master. It may not show up on your performance review but having a supportive network within the organization may go a long way toward influencing that review!
Where do you start? LinkedIn provides a perfect vehicle to begin the process.
There are two aspects to effective networking: Building and Working. In Part 1 of this 2 part series, we will deep dive into building your network. Part 2 will cover how you sustain and work your connections for the future.
- Get out there and build your network: LinkedIn is really an outstanding tool for networking. I usually challenge my clients on two things: Each day send a LinkedIn invitation to connect to two new people and send one note to a connection you already have, just to keep in touch. If you want to go even further, invite connections to coffee or lunch to catch up. For new invitations, be sure to include a note to the individual you are connecting to. Something about them or their work, and why you want to connect with them. It makes the experience much more personal.
- Affinity groups: There are other effective networking techniques to try as well. LinkedIn has affinity groups for almost everything you can imagine. Perhaps you want to follow Architects or IT groups. Following these groups on LinkedIn gives you a network in your particular specialty. Now you will know people in your industry just by being identified with this group. I can remember when I used to go to IT user group conferences. These were extremely valuable because I could meet like-minded individuals who also worked with my business application. We were a support group for each other on muddling through challenges with the app and what we needed to do. An Affinity group can be a huge support.
- Colleagues: As stated, begin to link In with colleagues at work. It’s amazing how much you can learn about them through LinkedIn, their backgrounds, interests, thought leadership, etc. Colleagues should include leaders and senior leaders. I linked in to a former Chairman and CEO of the Fortune 100 corporation where I worked. Although I never worked directly with him, I decided to take a chance. Afterall, what was the worst thing that could happen? To my surprise, he accepted my link, and we engaged in a wonderful dialog about the corporation where we both once worked. It was only through LinkedIn that I was able to chat with him.
- Other Connections: On LinkedIn, the My Network tab will show “People you may know.” These individuals have some connection to you already through mutual connections (that’s how networking works!). Start by linking in to these individuals. Again , if they don’t respond, no big deal. Don’t take it personally. Some people are so busy that they don’t take the time to work their own LinkedIn. Others set up their profiles and never look again! Ha! I’ve had several clients who forgot which email address they set LinkedIn up with! So, there could be many reasons why someone will not respond.
- It’s OK if they say no: I did have a coaching colleague that I tried to link into, deny my request. He demanded to know where we had met. It was at a coaching conference in Boston. I had his business card. But, he obviously didn’t remember and got very put off by my request. I apologized and thought, well, that’s OK, just move on to the next person. He didn’t appreciate the power of networking, for sure.
- Always say yes, most of the time, anyway: Never refuse a legitimate LinkedIn connection, like the person above did. Now, I know a lot of folks are concerned about privacy and identity theft. If you truly don’t know the person and see nothing in common, perhaps best not to allow them to connect. There are also vendors who will try to market to you, which could be annoying, but you can always delete the connection. I did have a situation once where someone in China wanted to connect. I went ahead and accepted, then started receiving a lot of spam phone calls. I immediately disconnected on LinkedIn and reported the connection. The calls stopped. In a network of over 1500 connections, I’ve only had one incident. Not too bad.
The key here is to build your network team with quality contacts. It’s not just numbers but actual relationships you can connect with. Commit to spending 15 minutes a day on LinkedIn to build out an effective network. Part 2 will address how you work your network.
Would you like to use LinkedIn more effectively to boost your career? I’m holding a workshop for just that purpose. Click here for more details.