Just as having a car accident and then purchasing insurance to cover the repairs won’t work, neither does trying to establish a professional network after loosing your job. You need both securely in place before the need arises.
The Department of Labor estimates that 63% of all jobs are secured through networking; other experts quote over 70% of executive placements are made through networking, personal introductions and referrals.
Networking is a very effective means of expanding your business-contacts and staying in touch with connected peers. Networking is not about getting instant referrals. It’s about establishing relationships that enable each in the network to refer one another with confidence. And that takes time.
It also requires nurture. You may have been close to “Jim” while you worked at your last position. But if you’ve not stayed connected, to call him years later and ask for a referral would be awkward at best and risky for Jim. You could have been in jail, since working with him, for all he knows.
Here are some important basic steps to establish and maintain a vital network:
1. Establish a system for documenting communication. Use 3×5 cards or an Excel worksheet or whatever you chose, to record pertinent information. Update information to this record with each contact. Build relationship don’t merely make an acquaintance.
2. Connect often enough that individuals easily come to the forefront of your mind and the same is true for them concerning you. The idea is to be ready to make a referral/get a referral the moment a suitable opportunity is mentioned.
3. Plan regular in-person meetings. To stay at the top of the network you need to maintain adequate name-face recognition. This is another reason why it’s a good idea to have your photo on your business card.
4. Remember that networking must be mutual with each person seeking to be a resource for others, as much as seeking others to be a resource for you. If mutuality does not exist, neither will the benefits of networking.
5. Concentrate on quality connections over quantity connections. Having 1000 people you’ve exchanged business cards with who don’t remember you is 1000% ineffective. Seek to have 100-200 connections who know your background and the value you offer.
6. Don’t attend networking meetings because they are “networking meetings.” If you find 2-5 people that are a good fit for your networking needs and incorporate them into your networking efforts.
7. When you find a networking group that has many great resource people for you, and visa versa, join the committees or serve on the Board so others can truly know you and you can truly know them.
8. Develop genuine relationships with those worthy of being in your network and keep them fresh whether, you’re seeking a career change or not. It’s not only about them being a resource for you, but you being a resource for them, whenever the need arises.