Networking: What is it and do I need to do it?

By December 12, 2011 Networking 3 Comments

networkingSo how can we cheer you up in the chaos before the Christmas holidays?  Read on about the art of networking!

Networking: What is it?

Often when we mention the term networking a look of horror creeps across our client’s faces. They imagine selling, cold calling and all that embarrassing awkwardness of being rejected. Stop there! Think of networking as building relationships, about listening, asking questions, being interested, building trust and rapport. This comes more naturally for some, than for others, in true emotional intelligence terms; but it can be learned like any skill.

Why bother?

Networking can help you in the following ways:

  • Creating opportunity for a new job now or in the future
  • Finding new clients/customers/prospects
  • Trading specialist knowledge in your profession, industry or sector

Let’s look at these individually. This time:

Networking for a new job

Research from Henley Business School identified that people were promoted based on 3 key factors: 10% on their technical competence & skill, 30% on their image and 60% on their exposure to the right people…in other words on their ability to network.

So how can you afford not to develop this skill set? It is widely claimed that up to 70% of jobs are secured through networking. So, as a process to find work, networking is more significant than on-line recruitment ads, agencies, media ads etc. Again, how can you afford not to use this process?

A career networking conversation focuses on asking for advice, tips and information in an organisation, profession or industry. Other benefits are soliciting feedback on career goals, finding support for career development, gathering referrals to others who could be helpful and generating and uncovering future possibilities and options.

Whether you are looking for a new job or not, creating a networking plan is a valuable investment of time. It’s easier in the long run if you don’t leave long gaps in talking with people and then appear to only get in touch when you want something.

Getting started

If every person knows about 200 other people, how can you tap into that pool? Think of this pool as contacts. Divide the contacts into 3 groups.  Acquaintances, allies, & advocates.

Acquaintances are friends, neighbours, customers, colleagues with whom you have had minimal interaction. They know you by name and if you requested will probably do a small favour.

Allies are those who know your talents and aspirations. They will go the extra mile to give you names, resources, feedback etc. You respect the advice they give you. They know your expertise and you know theirs.

Advocates know you really, really well and believe in you. They trust you and your reputation and are very willing to speak on your behalf. You are equally supportive of them.

Prioritise your contacts under the 3 headings based on the likely help you can give them and vice versa. Plan regular calls/ emails to stay in touch. Remember small details about them to kick the conversation off. If you have been made redundant, planning a certain number of networking calls is highly effective. If you do feel awkward think how you would feel if someone asked for your advice, you would probably be flattered.

Next time, more tips on networking for:

  • Finding new clients/customers/prospects
  • Trading specialist knowledge in your profession, industry or sector

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