Networking is an essential skill to master.
A strong network can enhance your career progression as well as support you in your current role. This doesn’t just include networking outside of your organization with other professionals. It can also mean networking within your company, getting 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. A strong network can give you a huge advantage. For myself as an entrepreneur, a network is critical. For those of you in nonprofit/volunteer situations, networks can help you as well. A network is truly a valuable tool.
In addition, 85 to 90% of jobs are acquired through networking…not job boards. That’s an amazing statistic and another huge reason why networking works.
It’s surprising to learn that many people do not have networks. Great networks take time, strategy, and care. Networks are NOT just about getting as many contacts on Linked In as possible, but that is a way to start to build a base.
There are basically two components to networking…Building it, and Working it!
Look for networking opportunities everywhere. Start with Linked In. This is such a great tool for networking. Linked In is very helpful in connecting you with others. The “My Network” tab will show “People you may know.” You will see individuals on Linked In who have some connection to you (mutual connections). Start by Linking into these. As I say to my clients…”What’s the worst that can happen?“ So, they don’t respond, no big deal. Always send a little note letting them know that you would like to connect.
Never refuse a Linked In connection to you. Understandably, there are always worries about identity theft, etc. If you don’t know the person at all and see nothing in common, perhaps not best to allow them to connect, but otherwise, connect away. Especially if Recruiters want to connect…there’s only so much they can do on Linked In (or you would report them), and they may prove a valuable resource at some point.
Commit to spending just 10 minutes a day building your network through Linked In.
Conferences are outstanding networking opportunities. I met a fellow coach at the last conference I went to, and all I did was sit next to her at a lunch counter and introduce myself. She has become an amazing inspiration for me as a coach. If you aren’t making new professional contacts at conferences, you’re missing a great opportunity.
The cafeteria at work is a great place to network, presuming that people do eat at the cafeteria, or maybe it’s a break room. In my corporate experience, the former Chairman of the Board/CEO used to take time at lunch to randomly sit with individuals at the cafeteria. I saw him do this several times. If you’re a leader, consider networking this way to get a pulse on the organization. Never eat lunch alone.
Notice that I didn’t mention “networking events.” My experience (and those of most clients) just hasn’t been very valuable in these types of groups; however, with a group that has common interests, there are some possibilities here…similar to Conferences.
The key here is to build your “network” team with as many people as possible.
Linked In again offers a great and simple way to work your network. Linked In will inform you on a daily basis of birthdays, promotions, new assignments or new jobs for your contacts. This is a great way to reach out, congratulate, and start up a conversation.
You can also reach out to contacts on Linked In to say hello and ask how things are going. This gives you the connection to start a dialogue. You want your contacts to remember you! This can become a part of your 10 minutes a day on Linked In.
At work, keep track of birthdays and anniversaries there as well. Great way to stay in touch.
Set up a time for coffee or lunch with others. We all need a little caffeine in the morning or to eat lunch. Why not combine this with an opportunity to meet with your network? Find out how they’re doing and share your current situation.
Similarly, a little dinner or drinks after work as appropriate can also be an option. The goal here is to keep in touch with your contacts and always get to know them better. The important point is that these aren’t just social events…these are targeted opportunities to build alliances, discuss opportunities, etc.
So, you may be thinking, how do I find time for all of this in my busy day? My recommendation is to set goals, (how many contacts you want to get in touch with per week, how much time can you spend (like 10 minutes per day) building your network. Challenge yourself to include this important work within your day. It really can build your career, your current job skills, allow you to assist others, and create a team of strong relationships.
This week, work your network by either growing it or working it. Use this week to shore up your Linked IN profile to All-Star status (Linked IN gives you that status when you’ve completed your profile plus). If you have a great network, then take some time this week to reach out to some of your contacts you haven’t seen/heard from in a while and touch base.
Make a plan for networking in the future.
Would love to hear of your journey to becoming a great networker!
Taking a couple of weeks off…my next posting with is 6/11/18!
Lupe S. Wood, MS, PCC, is a certified Career/Executive Coach. She coaches individuals and leaders to career fulfillment, transition, and advancement. She also consults for results with businesses and solopreneurs. Her background includes 12 years in senior leadership for a Fortune 100 corporation and 7 years as a coach, with a Master’s degree in Organizational Effectiveness and Executive Coaching.
For more information, please visit my website at www.upcoached.com