“What are you afraid of?” Ask most business professionals and they think “Losing my job,” whether they admit it or not. Granted, the current economic situation isn’t cheery, especially if you’ve got experience and a touch of grey, but what are you doing about it? Waiting for someone to select your LinkedIn profile, send you an email, or give you a phonecall? Whether you have a job or not, you need to build your network.
A tale of two networkers
While a strong network doesn’t ensure you won’t loose your job or you’ll get a new one by snapping your fingers, it does translate to having people who are willing to help you. Here are two examples of networking.
- One friend only sees people when she’s between jobs because she’s so busy working when she has a job. This friend works hard building a network to get each new job. Each time, she swears she’ll keep her network alive. Yet time after time, when she gets a new job, she winds up spends 110% of her time working without raising her head until she needs another job.
- Another friend regularly emails me to have lunch. Even if it takes rescheduling a few times, we manage to have lunch every couple of months. Guess what, she’s always got her feelers out to see what she can do to help. It might be getting placed in an interesting article or a connecting a new client prospect. The lesson is that she’s always pays it forward and people are ready to return the friendship when she needs it.
The One Thing You Need to Build Your Network
What’s the one secret to building your network? Make one new contact every day. (Of course, if you’re unemployed, you need to up the ante.) This doesn’t mean an email that says I need a job, please let me know if you hear of anything. That message is headed straight for the trash. Take a cue from my second friend and touch base with your network regularly. In the process connect with one new person each day via your channel of choice, whether it’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email, text message or phone. Reach out and say “Hi. I’m thinking of you. How are you doing?” The subtext is “How can I be of help to you?” Then listen. This is the biggest thing you can do.
One caveat: You must be open-minded and build your network broadly. You never know who’s connected to whom. When it comes to personal relationships, you only see the tip of the iceberg. You can’t limit yourself by saying I only want to meet C-level executives.
Lastly, accept what someone can do for you at that time. Recently, someone reached out to me for an entry-level marketing position. Since I didn’t know of any, I suggested she follow me on Twitter and/or read my blog. She only wanted warm leads and didn’t follow through. The following week, a colleague contacted me looking an entry-level marketer. The contact lost out on an opportunity. Lesson: Keep an open mind!
5 Pointers to build your network painlessly
Here are five pointers to expand your network painlessly.
- Send colleagues relevant articles. While you’re doing your daily reading, forward articles that relate to members of your network. Think broadly in terms of news, blog posts and e-books. Show you’re thinking of them. It’s particularly helpful if they or their company is mentioned.
- Forward leads to your network. Remember you need to make it personal. A mass email has the opposite impact. Think job openings, potential freelance jobs or PR leads. (Hint: HARO is great for this!)
- Get social on various social media networks. Give colleagues a shout out on Twitter for #FollowFriday or retweet their tweets or articles. Also, leave comments on their blog. Since comments are nirvana for bloggers, this’ll get you noticed.
- Wish them Happy Birthday. Everyone loves to have people remember their important milestones. Leave a message on someone’s Facebook wall, send an email, mail a birthday card or call them.
- Take it offline. Meet for lunch or coffee. Or, go to an appropriate Meetup or conference to meet new people in your field.
Building a network happens one relationship at a time. Take one action each business day and that adds up to 200 actions a year. Like a child or a garden, a strong network requires constant care and feeding.
Do you have any other advice regarding building a network? If so, please include it in the comment section below.
Note: This column was part of the #UsBlogs Weekly Round Up. This week’s topic is “What Are You Afraid Of?” (And What Are You Doing About It).
Here are some related articles you may be interested in:
Photo credit: Oskay via Flickr