by Lisa @Phoenix Executive Coaching
Have you ever wondered how a friend gets the inside scoop on the latest bargain, where you can service your car for a great deal or have landed that job before its ever advertised.
Have you watched a friend launch an idea and attract the support and guidance they need at just the right time?
The answer is great relationship building and networking skills. So if you are looking to manifest that dream project or planning to change your career direction then good networking habits are a must.
Now I understand that networking can have a negative flavour, that seedy car salesman approach or professional stalker, so here are some tips which will help cultivate great habits.
1. They have a ” Little Black Book “.
Great Networkers have a “ Little Black Book “ or database of contacts and regularly create situations to add new people. Not everyone is blessed with a good memory for names and people so if you are not lucky enough to have a memory like a safe be organised and set up a physical database.
To create a list of possible contacts start with the easy ones: family friends, relatives, former employees, former co-workers, former schools friends. Facebook and Linked In can be a great source of assistance.
Then take this out another layer: volunteer activities, your hairdresser, the local store, your kids school friends.
Then take it out again into the third zone by attending free talks, seminars, marketing events or community meetings etc. Networking has no boundaries, always have a business card or expect to get one, good networkers have the flexibility to connect in any situation.
To get the best out of the any event.
Introduce yourself to at least 3 people and get their cards. When you get home add the card to your database and make some notes re the connection, this will help when you meet them again.
DO: Make these genuine contacts and ask about why they are at the event, you might be able to help them and out of the conversation a new connection may be formed.
If the event is over lunch try and go to lunch with someone you have met this gives an opportunity to talk about what you have learnt and again establishes a relationship.
DON’T: Jump to give or get a card without investing in a genuine conversation.
Make sure you ask questions about them and listen, wait till they ask about you and if you have listened you should be able to expand on any common points.
Its not a race so pay attention to people, giving out 30 cards with no connection you may as well have stood on a street corner outside a bank.
Once you have your database you may have the opportunity to share things which benefit some of your contacts.
EG: You know of a local tradesman who is reliable, honest and goes that extra mile. You may pop his details on your facebook, share his business details via LinkedIn or even pop an email out to contacts within the local area saying heads up this guy is great if you even need some building repairs.
Get into the habit of sharing and giving as it creates a foundation for future relationships. If you can help others or be the first to step up with support this increases the chance that if you ask for suggestions, tips or guidance people may step in and help you.
2. Great networkers have a plan.
For some people this plan can be a clear idea of what they want to achieve in a project, new business or new job. If you are uncertain about what you want to achieve try and put it in writing. A written networking plan can ground you emotionally and is the first step forward into taking back control of a situation. It does not have to be elaborate and here is a basic examples of good questions to ask yourself: What is my goals? Who do I want to meet? What events should I focus on? How often should I go networking?
Once you have put some effort into understanding the possible areas to Network in, be prepared so that you maximise any opportunity which arises and a little preparation means you will create a great impression.
DON’T: Walking into a room and intend to “ work the room “ , this is not the most effective way to network and lacks integrity.
Think of politicians, we have all seen the meet the crowds fake hand shake or I am sure you have seen the odd interview go very wrong due to poor preparation, so take a moment to think about what you need to accomplish, convey, and gain when you meet people.
DO: Before you walk into the meeting or event, try and work out who will be there, or the profile of the people who would be attending. Have a basic understanding of their work or industry and have some questions that will facilitate a quality conversation. You don’t want to spend 30 min having a chat about how bad the food is or the facilities to the CEO of Myer and never realise who they were until they step on the stage.
3. They follow up.
When you are meeting dozens of people a day it is important that after you have made a good connection to follow up with a thank you or nice to meet you. Tell your contact how much he or she helped you, and refer to particularly helpful, specific advice.
In addition to immediate follow-up after a meeting or conversation, keep in touch with your contacts. In your database or little black book make notes re when you last touched base with the person, this will ensure you don’t over work the connection. It’s important to stay on their radar without being imposing or invasive and, of course, if you get that new job or opportunity, be sure to tell them and thank them again for their help.
4. They make it easy.
In todays world everyone is busy so you need to make things as easy as possible for the person you are connecting with. If you say can I have 5 minutes make sure you are prepared to get the most out of that time and keep it short.
DO: Explain what you specifically want, and ask detail-oriented questions.
For example, “I’m looking for jobs in events management. Do you know anyone who works at the SGLMG? May I have their names and phone numbers? May I use your name when I introduce myself to them?” Be prepared for a no or I dont know anyone and be gracious at that moment as you dont want to burn a good contact.
DO: Ask for career tips and advice from your contact, by asking for your contact to offer valuable insights from his or her personal experiences and successes, this knowledge is valuable and also shows you respect their point of view.
DON’T: Make general demands, such as, “Do you know of any jobs that would be good for me?” or “ I don’t know what to do next? “ This sort of question is very open and it puts a lot of pressure on your contact.
5. Research networking organisations.
Organisations such as The Toastmasters Club, The Lions Club are great organisations which facilitate people meeting each other. You also have specific companies which directly advertise Networking Functions. Look for organisations that have business owners in the same area of interest as you.
A dear friend of mine who is an amazing networker is a member of associations, offers to guest speak at functions and attends many events that are rich in potential clients. She has a clear business vision and as this plan is on her mind when an opportunity to make a connection occurs it is natural and usually mutually beneficial.
6. Social Media its here to stay.
With the internet and smartphones making communication so easy, there are many ways to use social media in order to network, and eventually find a job.
Before you start using social media as a networking tool you need to ensure that you have a clear picture of who you are or your “ brand “ and make sure that you are comfortable that your sites reflect the image you want to project. You will be Googled.
LinkedIn, if you’re not already on LinkedIn, you definitely need to be. Basically, it’s the professional version of facebook as it’s a site that allows you to connect to people you know. It also allows you to see profiles of anyone else on LinkedIn, and gives you ways to connect to them.
To run a healthy LinkedIn profile you need: recommendations, a professional headline and regularly update your status this keeps interest and people informed of what you have been up to.
One of the best ways to use LinkedIn is if you have a very specific company you are interested in. You search on that company, and hopefully find people who are connected to other people you know. Then, you can ask your personal contact to connect you.
Facebook can be risky, you really need to review your profile and ask what is your brand before you utilise this tool for networking. You should also check your privacy setting as that photo of getting drunk and falling over with the lamp shade on your head might have been funny at the time but employers and agencies check facebook.
DO: Its ok to post status updates relating to your job search, to keep it top of mind that your still looking for a job, example ”I had a great interview this morning… keep your fingers crossed!”. Tell the world about your excitement re your new project or a heads up this is coming.
DON’T: If you are updating that you hate the world and rant about your old work, people may steer clear of you as a possible new employee. If you vent re set backs or are negative this could bring into question your commitment or what your would be like to work with.
7. Social Media and employers.
Connect with employers you would like to work for. Follow their Twitter account(s), like their Facebook page(s), and join their LinkedIn group. Use sites like LinkedIn to build a virtual org chart of the department that you are interested in, connect with those people on Twitter & LinkedIn.
Keep current with news in your industry or about companies and hiring managers you are targeting. As you see articles or posts, become a voice in the conversation by tweeting, replying, commenting about it. These are your personal brand impressions the more you do the better, however, be smart about it only do it when you can add value in the conversations.
Two of the best networkers I know are also two of the most supportive people to others, there is a karmic energy to networking : be generous in your assistance and support of others, be genuine in the connections you make and honest in your intentions. You attract what you give out.
I wish you luck and just think of the exciting possibilites in the conversations that are in your future.