Start by identifying who is in your network.
Everyone knows at least 10 people. Think of the old AT&T TV commercial where they talk about one person knows 10 people and those 10 people know 10 people and soon you have a screen full of hundreds to thousands of faces.
How many people do you have in your network that you can connect with today?
Have you lost touch with some, while others have diminished in their significance to your overall goals?
Professionals are usually good networkers as they apply many of the principles of networking to their own teams and internal organization departments. However, many are reluctant and don’t network well. When it comes to stepping out of their comfort zone, some executives avoid working on strengthening their existing network or building new contacts.
I’ve simplified the essence of networking to encourage executives to focus on their network and start using it today.
Who are the people currently in your network?
Are they former peers and bosses, or industry colleagues?
Have you reached out past the obvious – cast a wider net to connect to other people who could add value to your network?
Where can you find these people?
To name a few:
- Business Groups & Associations
- Business Development & Certification Programs
- Charity or Civic Organizations
- Advanced College Classes
Don’t overlook possibilities like neighbors, hairdresser, wine club, church, gym, special interest groups like hiking or biking, travel club, etc.
What can your network do for you?
Or if we take the famous Kennedy perspective and ask “What can you do for your network?”
It works both ways. Your contributions to your network of colleagues and friends can be very beneficial to all involved. Someone in your network may need the name of a resource, or may be looking for a person to fill a position in their organization, or just looking for a person with knowledge about a company or product. You might be able to provide that resource or information. And, on the flip side, you could be looking for the same things from people in your network, as well as getting an inside view of potential job opportunities that come up, a new product launch, or a new division opening up.
Where is the best place to network?
The list is endless, keeping in mind that you need to be discrete at all times if you are currently employed. Association meetings, or business development programs are great places to network, asking questions that generate answers about a company’s challenges and then positioning yourself up as a solution to that pain/problem. Charity functions often have high-powered industry leaders in attendance and casual conversation could end up in potential job leads. Inviting former bosses or co-workers to coffee or lunch is also a great way to connect and discuss potential opportunities. Connecting through social networking is also viable, yet needs to be highly filtered if you are still employed. Your company monitors social media so you don’t want to give yourself away looking for a job.
When & Why…..
The time is now, even if you are not considering a move or change until later in the year or even next year. Building your network of contacts before you need them is a smart approach. In the early stages of creating or adding to your network, you become a resource, positioning yourself as a ‘go-to’ person for others and drive up your value. Then, when you need your network, you have a rich group to tap into.
With the economy, you want to be ready for opportunities that may come your way. Working on your network is one thing you can do today to prepare yourself for tomorrow.
Do You Know About These Top 5 Strategies For Building Your Network?
Building and maintaining a successful executive network should be a top priority whether you are involved in a current job search or not. Don’t store away contacts that you meet and reach out only when you are in the midst of job search. You need to create an action plan to cultivate those contact relationships.
First and foremost, get organized.
You know those bits of paper with information about a contact person that you have shoved in a briefcase or are sitting on your desk piling up?
Think like a salesman who keeps track of customers – create a system – whether it is an app on your phone, an excel spreadsheet, whatever you think will work for you. And then be consistent in keeping this file current with the latest people you meet.
Next, set yourself up as the “go-to” person that everyone wants to have in their network. Someone who shares information, has a big network to connect to, is always willing to help another, and can sometimes even be a problem solver for issues you may have.
These 5 tips can help:
1. Share an article – When was the last time you saw a great article or blog about an industry-related topic and thought – I should send this to John Jones – he would appreciate this information? A quick e-note attaching the article keeps you in John’s sphere of influence, demonstrates you have a watchful eye on the industry and are keeping up with current events.
2. Recommend a book – Book notes from business books are often welcome by people in your network, and especially by those who don’t have the time to read. I have a former client who was so good at this, she started a book club where she sends her book reviews to contacts who opted in to her service, and as a result, this grew into a very lucrative executive consulting business.
3. Send kudos to your contacts – Everyone likes to be complimented for accomplishments. Be sure you keep up with your contacts so that you can let them know you are paying attention and following their milestones. You can use LinkedIn to keep in touch with your connections and get notified when one of your connections makes the news. Or set up Google alerts for your closest contacts.
4. Thank contacts regularly – Has someone in your network helped you out? Inspired you? Introduced you to an important connection? People appreciate knowing they have made a difference in your career and would appreciate a note of thanks.
5. Keep in touch – Make it a priority to keep up with these contacts and reach out to several old and new people a week. Schedule a phone call, or meet up on your calendar so you have dedicated a time to build relationships. You can simply touch base to catch up or discuss specific projects or interests. Regular friendly rapport will build your contacts into a powerful support system.
The saying goes, “build your network before you need it.” And that proves to be a valid statement time and time again. People will be more willing to help if you are a trusted and valued contact with whom they have a relationship.