Tips on How to Build Your Network
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Posted by: Tom Sather, founder of Career Works
Introduction by Larry Schmitz, Region 5 President
One of the sessions at our recent Region 5 Technology Conference was a panel discussion on "How to Manage Your Career for the Long Term".
One of our speakers was Tom Sather, founder of Career Works in Appleton, Wisconsin. While Tom, and the rest of the panel, shared some great ideas with the attendees to help them in their own career planning, I thought this article in the Career Works newsletter was REALLY great advice for all of us. Building a "people network" is a necessity for almost all of us. Whether we tap into it to find a job, identify new customers, find new sources of information on people's experience with various new technologies or a myriad of other reasons, we need our own "network".
I asked Tom if we could have his permission to reprint his excellent article and he was more than happy to share this advice with all the AITP members. You will notice that he recommends joining a professional association. Sort of the old rule we have here in Wisconsin--If you want to catch fish, you have to go where the fish are. And if you follow Tom's advice, and it works, think of it as another way you just maximized your return on your investment in your AITP dues.
Below is the article:
How to Create Your Networking Plan
You don't have to keep tabs on everyone you've met since grade school to be successful at networking. Some people are social hubs and find networking easy and natural. Others need to make an effort to stay connected with friends and colleagues as well as forge new relationships. Whichever type of person you are, making the most of networking opportunities is critical to finding your next job.
Here are the Steps:
- Figure out how to help others without immediately asking them to help you. This is the key to networking nirvana.
- Find ways to put people together that you think would enjoy or at least benefit each other. They're likely to return the favor.
- Inventory your existing network. How many people on your list are mere acquaintances? How many would immediately take your phone call? Concentrate on moving people from the first group to the second.
- Arrange third-party introductions whenever possible when you target someone new to meet. This doesn't have to be an in-person introduction, just a brief e-mail message - explaining who you are and what common ground you might share - will plant the seed.
- Do your homework before approaching someone new, not just about his or her interests but also about how he or she can be a good contact. When someone asks, "How can I help you?" that's not the time to start waffling. Answer with specifics.
- Join professional organizations directly related to your career goals. Attending meetings, serving on committees and speaking at conferences are all ways to expand your sphere of contacts.
- Write memory-jogging hints on the backs of the business cards you collect: where you met the person, mutual colleagues, and other names. Follow up with promising contacts as soon as possible, or you risk their forgetting ever meeting you or your forgetting why they seemed so promising.
- Sift through accumulated business cards and enter the information into a contact-management system. The data entry is time consuming but infinitely valuable for later search and retrieval.
- Practice listening well. Pay close attention to what people say, and you'll have a better chance of remembering conversation details as well as being able to refer to them later.
- Identify yourself clearly when making follow-up calls. Don't expect people to remember you merely from your name. To avoid putting them on the spot, immediately supply an explanation of when or how you met and why you're calling. Keep in mind that people hate being embarrassed - so helping them get past an awkward moment is key to a successful conversation.
- Revive the art of letter writing. A handwritten note always makes a more memorable impression than an e-mail message.
Carry a slim, two-section business-card case wherever you go. Keep your own cards in one side and the ones you receive in the other.
Arrive early at functions. The best networking time is prior to the meeting, the meal or the speeches.
Explore social networking communities, such as LinkedIn Groups, or Meetup.com.
Executive-only networking organizations, such as ExecuNet.com, charge a fee but can be another resource if you're looking to advance your career.
Finally, reconnect periodically with people who have been good contacts in the past. Checking in with people lays a good foundation for future networking.
About the Author
Career Works, founded by Tom Sather in 2003, takes a very "hands-on” approach to career transition services and leadership development. Before Career Works, Tom worked in executive leadership roles in both the public and private sectors in such industries as retail, distribution, manufacturing, and public transit. Through his Fast Track Transition Group, Tom has provided career transition services to scores of professionals in 31 states.