I have a friend and long-time colleague who likes to call me the Queen of Networking. In truth, I hate what are considered the traditional forms of networking – such as schmoozing at cocktail parties, just for the sake of schmoozing. This type of networking conjures up images of a guy in a white vinyl belt with matching shoes, randomly passing out business cards! What one author calls the “networking jerk”.
But I do think effective networking is hugely important, no matter what you do. We know that people are more likely to hire people that they like and therefore trust; and we know that opportunities can come from unlikely sources, so the broader your network the better. If you happen to be in or considering career transition, it is even more important to have that network in place.
I can readily say that the vast majority of my jobs, contracts, and opportunities to live and do business in other countries, potential for reinventing my career, etc have come from my network. I have been lucky enough to have calls out of the blue to say “how would you like to work on a World Exposition” or “would you like to go to Asia for 4 years” or “I hear you are a business coach now, how would you like to coach a member of my team” – all of which came from my network.
So how do you build a networking style that works for you? I will provide a couple of resources below that I think are worth reading but here are my top networking tips:
- Build it before you need it – if you wait until you need your network, it may be too late. Consider the information that is out there on networking and start developing your personal networking style NOW.
- Get your story straight – those readers who have worked with me know that I am very big on people having their Career Story nailed no matter what stage they are at in their career. Figure out what your succinct, compelling story is and how you will articulate it before you reach out to your network. Not only who and what you are, but why you do what you do, or want to do.
- Make a list of who is already in your network – my clients often tell me their network is limited to the field they are in or that they don’t know anyone in the field they want to be in. Really? Everyone has a network and it is broader than most people think. It can include parents in your child’s soccer club or the person you see everyday at the gym or someone your sister knows. Sit down and make a list – and think outside of your immediate connections.
- Decide who is at the top of your list and start contacting them – one of the best ways to start networking is to start! You will get better at it if you practice. It may be that you just start with casual lunches or chats but figure out in advance what you might want to offer that person (what value can you provide to them) and then what are one or two things you might ask them for – everything from advice to the names of other people that you can add to your network.
- Maintain your network – just like a fitness regime, a networking plan needs constant care and feeding. One of the things I have done for years is keep a weekly TO DO list and down the side is a column called “Networking This Week”. It could be called “Business Development” but in fact often the people that I will network with that week will not and may never be direct leads to business. The point is to make it a constant and regular feature of your life.
- Never Eat Alone – this is the name of a book by Keith Ferrazzi that I recommend you pick up. The subtitle “And Other Secrets to Success One Relationship At A Time” kind of says it all. I have subscribed to the “never eat alone” philosophy for much of my business life. Whether I am in Vancouver, Toronto, London UK or Mexico, I seek out people in my network and line them up for coffee, lunch, drinks, dinner. Great things come about in such relaxed environments.
- Hone your social media skills or hire an expert to help – of course these days social media networking contains a suite of powerful tools to help you be more effective than ever in reaching a wide network. I don’t pretend expertise in this area but I have engaged expertise and then been the beneficiary of how effective social networking can be. For example, I was recently invited to speak at a meeting of global leaders in a field that holds potential for me as a business coach and the connection came through my positioning on the web. So don’t delay on getting that LinkedIn profile in decent shape and figure out what else can work for you.
In addition to the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, I also appreciated a recent post entitled “7 Key Habits of Super Networkers” that you can find here: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/224819
Always happy to talk about networking or anything else that your career might need – you can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org or 604.288.7031.