Published: 13 Nov 2013
The art of networking is to communicate effectively with the people you know and the people they know with clarity and purpose. This advice is provided by Appleby Associates, Executive Career Management.
When done well, networking is a simple extension of natural everyday contact, though, with your career goals as the main focus. But this activity must operate as a genuine two-way process with professional courtesy and integrity at all times. Network badly and it’s likely you will worsen your chances of meeting your objectives; you may well increase your circle of contacts, but only to the extent of spreading a negative image of yourself to a wider, possibly more influential group.
Give and take is the rule of successful networking. You must be prepared to reciprocate assistance to others within your expanding network.
An inventory and approach to family, close friends, and trusted colleagues will get you out of the blocks and provide good feedback on your plans and an informed view as to your particular suitability for a certain role.
In general, people enjoy being a sounding board and will offer advice and help about genuine and clear objectives. To maximise this ‘free consultancy’ requires you to be succinct and unambiguous about what you’re trying to achieve. At each opportunity consider: how can I help you to help me? The purpose behind working with your network is not to broadcast a mass plea for employment – if someone knows of an opportunity then you should be confident that they will alert you. Better to get your network thinking in parallel with you on how to realise your plans.
In many cases the real work starts outside of your existing network when you have identified key individuals unknown to you that possess the valuable insight, secondary contacts and, in some instances, the hiring authority that will take you to the finishing line and your career objective.
At all times you must take responsibility for the process of finding the right problem for your skills and experience to solve. In discovering needs within a sector and organisation, your research will highlight the right people to approach. You may have to acquire an expanded network to take you to the next vital stage of gaining a referral meeting. To be introduced to your target contact by a person in your network affords you an advantage and a level of credibility.
Manage all referral meetings to make them worthwhile, informative and enjoyable for your host. When researching individuals, why not try to unearth some shared interests? A favourite rugby club, marathon obsession or the sleep deprivation gifted by twins all make for the basis of good initial contact.
You will have planned your own meeting agenda to demonstrate what you can contribute but listen carefully to your new contact’s views, as you may need to adapt as unexpected opportunities might emerge in the conversation; respect time boundaries and own all the action points that follow. Don’t be afraid of hearing negative feedback as this is vital in triggering constructive action, whether this is a change of focus or maybe your direction altogether.
Continue to manage the process after the referral meeting with a short note of thanks listing your next steps and a promise to keep in contact as things develop .In short, be on top of things, as your actions and inactions reflect on your reputation and career.
Do not stop working to increase and shape your network to best assist your career search. When opportunities arise, either just as internal concepts or publicly advertised positions in your chosen field, a strong network will help position and equip you to take full advantage. Maintain a network beyond your short or mid-term goals – when you’ve got it, nurture it as a valuable asset and on-ongoing activity, and it will serve you well.
This brief article was provided by executive career consultants, Appleby Associates. To find out more visit www.ApplebyAssociates.com