Networking is probably the most powerful, yet misunderstood and therefore underutilized tool in the workplace. In fact, many people fail to realize the importance of networking until they've lost one job and need to find another. But building, maintaining, and nurturing a solid professional network should be an integral, ongoing part of one's overall career and professional development, and in an economy unlike any we've seen in nearly three decades, it's just common sense.
Networking is all about building relationships. It simply means that you expand the pool of people you know who can help you solve a problem at any particular time. Think about it: if you need a mechanic or hairdresser or want to try a new restaurant, what do you do? You solicit referrals and suggestions from those you know and trust. To be safe, you might get the name of a second mechanic or hairdresser just in case the first can't fit you in.
The diligence that's applied to building your personal network should be magnified in your professional life. It has been estimated that more than half of all available jobs are never advertised, nor is it uncommon for companies to specially create positions for individuals they met through networking.
So, where do you begin? Networking is not limited to cocktail parties where businesspeople deliver 30-second sales pitches to promote their skills; that's one way to network, but there are a myriad of others. There are social networking sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, where you can promote your business, join groups and connect with like-minded professionals. You can also start in your community-local chambers of commerce, meetup groups, volunteer organizations, places of worship, even your child's little league team-any place where you or those around you can provide information to or be a resource for someone else. The opportunities are limited only by your imagination. One of my newest clients was a referral from a photographer I'd hired to take family photos.
Once you've made the connections, you have to maintain them. Regularly follow up, either via email, personal note, or phone call. Ask for and give referrals, as networking is a two-way street. And always seek to be a resource and provide value. Remember, people aren't sold on products and services; they're sold on relationships. Build these relationships by seeking out opportunities to be a resource. You'll find that you've created a safety (net)work long before you need it.
What's the best connection you've made through interviewing? Email me. I'd love to hear from you.