Build a Network Before You Need One
As Barbra Streisand sings,
"People….people who need people…are the luckiest
If you found yourself suddenly out of
work, faced with empty days and the challenge of finding a
new job, what would you do? Who could you call? In short, do
you have a professional network of contacts ready to
WHY DO YOU NEED A NETWORK
If you think you are not in jeopardy of
losing your job, think again. According to a recent survey
by outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison, 50% of
professionals laid off in recent months were caught unaware
by the shocking news.
In these times of economic uncertainty
and corporate scandal, virtually every worker needs a solid
core of professional sources to tap in the event of sudden
WHAT IS NETWORKING? (AND WHAT GIVES IT
A BAD NAME?)
"Networking" is not a dirty word.
However it has developed a bad reputation due to misuse by
unskilled, insincere and needy people. We've all been in
situations where someone who is "networking" is clearly
desperate for our money, business, patronage, referrals or
input. It makes us uncomfortable.
In spite of this, at least 60% of all
new jobs are uncovered through people power—networking at
its best. Indeed, that is the definition: casting a wide web
or "net" and "working" it to the benefit of all members.
True and successful networking is all
about relationship building. Your network of contacts can be
an effective sales force and referral base for you…as long
as you build sincere relationships.
PRINCIPLES OF SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL
Luckily, you can learn to become an
outstanding networker, and grow your own safety net. Follow
the 4 Golden Rules for Networking:
Help people, and they in turn
will want to help you. Focus on others and look for
opportunities to help them without worrying what is in it for
Don't confuse "great" networking with
"effective" networking. Everyone knows a "great" networker—they
seem to know everyone! However, knowing people and being
effective in helping others build their business are not the
same thing. Effective networkers deliver business
Nothing is worse than a
person who offers help in order to get something in
return. People can sense when they are being used. This
is why it is easier to build a network before you need
one; then you really can be genuine in your willingness
to help others without needing anything in return right
Commit to spending the
energy. Networks do not suddenly appear. Because
they are built on relationships and shared experiences, they
need attention, time and nurturing to blossom.
STEPS TO CREATE YOUR NETWORK
Evaluate the strength of your current
List your contacts: all the people you know. Start with
personal contacts: neighbors, friends, schoolmates, relatives.
Don't forget people like your doctor, dentist, lawyer,
hairdresser and dry cleaner. They know everyone! Then list your
professional contacts: current and former colleagues,
subordinates, vendors and clients.
Ask yourself, "If I were laid off today,
who could I call?" Develop a strategy and set some goals
about who should be in your network.
Mine your interests, whether
you love jazz, running 5K races, homeless pets, or working in a
soup kitchen. You'll meet like-minded people and build
relationships based on common values and interests.
Look for events and organizations in your
current or desired field. Have you joined the relevant associations?
Often you have chances to meet others, get information on the
field, obtain a directory of members, attend conventions and
local meetings, and receive professional publications and
Remember the important events in others'
birthday cards or emails, clip and mail relevant articles, or
send a holiday greeting with best wishes. Become the one who
stays in touch with those who have impacted your life. Surprise
someone you have lost touch with by dropping them a
Learn to converse
comfortably. Good conversationalists know the secret is
in asking questions and getting people to open up. This often
leads to points of commonality and interesting discussions.
Study Katie Couric and Oprah Winfrey and watch them guide
conversations by asking questions and putting people at
Look for chances to refer others to people
in your professional network.
When you link together
people who can help one another, you help both parties
Build your 60 second commercial about your
future professional direction.
It might be something
like, "Right now I am in real estate, but my real dream
is to someday own a restaurant." Share your goals, dreams
and challenges with people you meet—you might be
surprised at the response.
Write thank you notes.
Become a great thanker.
Everyone loves a thank you note, yet most people don't bother
to write them. Look for reasons to thank people, and send off a
quick handwritten note.