Networking was not needed nor learned during the boom times of the previous decades. It was quick and easy to shop and pick among multiple offers and opportunities provided by contacts.
Most professionals found their positions and advanced their careers through their immediate colleagues’ recommendations or from headhunters. Nowadays, recruitment searches are more circumscribed perhaps taking months to find the right candidate. Positions are not as plentiful as companies are not expanding and hiring at the rate of previous times.
Networking is not Lead Generation
Typically, professionals use up their direct contacts asking for job leads rather growing immediate relationships into a larger network of connections. Many people are uncomfortable with the process of making new contacts. Some perceive themselves to be empty-handed and asking for something. Others leave a negative impression during a networking conversation that they used for the sole purpose of finding job leads within their contact's company.
Networking is Relationships
Networking is a relationship building process that grows connections into a wealth of shared resources and opportunities. It only succeeds when approached from a perspective of quid pro quo. Powerful, successful networking occurs when our perspective shifts and our words change focus from what we want to what we can offer. This is more an attitudinal shift as well to view the process of networking as one of making and keeping connections not for this position but for a career lifetime.
When we consider the wants and needs of our contacts, then unforeseen opportunities are presented to us. We can do this by approaching networking with no expectations other than to make connections and build relationships and by sincerely offering our time, information and resources. We are limited only by our inability to think outside the “get a job box” to find creative, memorable, useful ways to reciprocate and show appreciation.
Beginner’s Networking in Six
1. Build the network before you need it.
It doesn’t work to finally join Linkedin, reach out to long lost colleagues and start too finally scan into Outlook all those business cards you have stashed away in your desk drawer. A network is like a coral reef: fragile, talking years to build and a vast eco-system of interconnections. Cultivate your network it with a long term view not for short-term gain.
2. Curb your sense of urgency.
Create a targeted networking plan. Too often professionals approach their network with a “shoot, ready, aim” attitude. The minute they decide to job search they contact their immediate circles of connections to let them know the news and ask for help. This unfocused effort results in an immediate flush of effort and rarely results in an actual new position.
3. A dated, stale personal brand colors your network’s perspective.
If your key connections still view you from the title, level, and responsibilities of job you held 12 years ago, then your branding message and value proposition is ineffective. You want your connections to provide support, assistance and help appropriately to who you are now not who you were.
4. The professional who dies with the biggest network wins.
Leverage your connections to grow your network through introductions especially on Linkedin.com. It is far too simple to go after what appears the low hanging fruit of immediate job possibilities. If they don’t come to fruition, the path to new contacts may also be closed. The goal should always be to grow the network in terms of numbers of people, and extension of into new sectors.
5. Like a garden, a network needs consistent attention over time to harvest the rewards.
Communication and reciprocity are the fertilizer and water of a network. Keeping in touch is a given. Social networks and technology tools enable us to maintain our connections and stay in touch using Twitter, Linkedin Groups, Facebook friends, blogs, and email.
6. Pay it forward.
You may think all of this advice is irrelevant to you at the moment. You have a large established network to whom you have delivered a well-crafted branded message of your thought leadership and you aren’t “in play”. Well then it’s your turn to help out other professionals in less optimum circumstances. Open doors and provide access to your network to others trying to grow theirs.
Sure there are very sophisticated techniques and approaches to all of the above. Begin with small steps first, otherwise there is no point to elaboration. When you reach the 500 connection threshold on Linkedin and a 1000+ people reading every blog posting then bigger, more aggressive networking goals can be set and acted on as your numbers will have reached a critical mass to actually produce results.