“Networking” is undoubtedly an overused word, but nonetheless, it is at the heart of business development, recruiting, raising capital, fundraising and job hunting. It is the deliberate process of exchanging information and resources in such a way as to create mutually beneficial relationships for personal or professional success. It’s all about building and sustaining relationships and friendships.
You will be contacting many people. You know why you are calling them but what’s in it for them? Offer your network, market knowledge, referrals or testimonials on their behalf. You always have something to return so ask them how you can help them now or in the future.
Once you have a plan, you need to work your plan. When making a contact, state that you are in a job search and describe the job you are looking for. Talk to a few highlights of what you are capable of doing. Ask for their opinion and advice on how to proceed and who else to contact. Trust that they will offer you referrals if they think they can help you. If not, be positive, polite, appreciative and call the next person.
Mapping your network and then building it are pivotal to your success.
- Alumni – List all the schools you have affiliations with and where you’ve stayed in touch with people. Think of people who can be a resource for you and vice versa.
- Neighbors – This is often an overlooked category. Often we know little about those who live near us yet obviously there is a lot in common or you wouldn’t have selected the neighborhood to begin with.
- Family – Kids and pets are a hidden gem in this category. Through them we can meet all kinds of interesting people. One’s extended family is also a terrific resource.
- Business – This is the core network. Don’t forget about your previous companies. Corporate alumni groups are strong and loyal. Talk to former bosses, peers and subordinates then customers, suppliers and competitors.
- Nonprofit – There are many wonderful people you will meet who participate in a variety of nonprofits. They attract a cross section of people who share a common interest but come from a diversity of industries.
- Interests – Where to stop, there are so many! This is often where business relationships begin. People start talking and realize they share a common interest.
- Sports – Most everyone has a sport that they either follow or participate in.
- Professionals – tap into your local contacts with bankers, lawyers, CPA’s and financial planners.
- Other – This is a collection of two areas that you want to inventory, but you want to be very careful about not assuming too much regarding what you may have in common.
As you identify your network, organize it. Write the name of each person. What do you know about each person? What does each person know about you? Start calling. Use any readily available contact management software to keep track. Use LinkedIn. In addition, there are networking events, job fairs, conferences and trade shows that you can use to extend your network. Meet your contacts in person whenever possible. It’s a game of statistics. You only need one job but you can’t be sure where it is. Your network can deliver you to it. Don’t be afraid to call people you haven’t talked to in years. They will be happy to hear from you and help if they can. Remember, most people have been in your shoes and understand what you are trying to accomplish. It can be frustrating but keep calling and expanding your network. Be sincere and people will respond. Be patient but persistent.