I’m a seasoned marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience under my belt. One thing I know for sure as I enter the second half of my career, you don’t get everywhere alone. In fact, of the nine employers that I’ve worked for over the years, more than half of those jobs began with a connection that I had within the organization. In other words, networking is critical to keeping the momentum of growth and opportunity throughout your career.
Unfortunately, networking comes easier to some people than to others. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share these five strategies from Jill Johnson, business author and speaker, on how to build your network of connections.
1. Build Your Network Before You Need It: Johnson says the best time to start networking is while you’re still in school. Look for professional groups in your field. Attend their events with the goal to meet people working full-time in the field and learn from the speakers. Many of these groups need volunteers.
As a student, I was a member of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and had opportunities to interact with public relations professionals. It was a great way to ask questions, learn about the skills I needed and make connections for internships.
Be sure to follow up your meeting with a thank-you note and reach out to make a connection on LinkedIn, along with a personal message. These are the details that get you remembered.
2. Be Specific In Asking For What You Want: Don’t waste the time of your networking contacts. Be clear about what you are hoping to gain from the meeting. Tell them exactly what you want to do and why you think they can help you. “Informational interviews” are a terrific method for learning about their career path and gaining their insight on how to build your career. Make sure you have a stated purpose for the meeting and then stick to it. Ask if there are any events, trade association meetings or volunteer opportunities that you should consider to help you build your network and gain some good foundational experience.
3. Face Time Is Critical: We’re all too used to communicating by text and email. While that works in many situations, networking requires a personal connection. People can only get to know and like you as well as help you when they meet you in person.
You can get face time simply by asking for it. Request a 15-minute face-to-face meeting. Prepare for your meeting by reviewing your contact’s professional LinkedIn profile and company website. Have your question list ready, then greet them and listen carefully as they answer your questions. Conclude the meeting with a sincere “thank you,” in person and with a follow-up handwritten note.
4. Use Your Expertise To Help Others: Ready to pay it forward? Share some of your learnings and perspectives with your new networking connection and keep in touch. One interaction is not enough. Remember to pay it forward by asking if there is anything you can do to for them. There might not yet be an answer, but it counts that you’re interested in a two-way street if possible. You have valuable knowledge, too.
Whether starting out early in your career or looking for the next right opportunity, try these tips and branch out with new contacts.
Source: Jill Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant and author of the forthcoming Bold Questions Series. Johnson helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted nearly four billion dollars’ worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results.