No matter what stage of your career you are in, you should be actively networking. That does not stop once you have your dream job. Your network is only as good as the last time you connected with them. Networking needs to be done by connecting in two ways with your current and potential network. I do this by setting up an excel sheet with the 100 people I want to stay connected with. I have all their names and dates of the last time I corresponded with them. My goal is to reach out to 1 or 2 people on my list each day with a quick “hello” or a message of gratitude to keep the connection warm and to let them know I am thinking about them. The second way you need to network is by actively engaging in the physical and Internet community to develop new connections and leads that will challenge you in your growth and learning. It is important to have a purpose and understanding as to why you are trying to build your network as you look to find a new job, start a new hobby or gain friends or colleagues in a certain area or industry.
Let’s look at ways that you can enhance your networking to further your career.
A Planned Time in your Calendar: No matter what good intentions you have around networking, you need to put it in your calendar. Schedule 5 -10 minutes to send an email to one or two people in your close network. This needs to happen every day with a quick message to your connections. Make sure it is not a simple “hello,” but a more meaningful message with two to three sentences connecting with these people.
Volunteering: Giving back and getting involved is a great service you can offer to your community or professional organizations. When you are volunteering, you are meeting people with a like mind of service and who are interested in the same cause or interest area. As you are volunteering, you get to know these individuals and develop a bond. You will be amazed at the opportunities that will come your way from this simple act. Remember, to make it work you need to be in service to the organization and not merely focused on what they will do for you.
Alumni/Career Services Office: One of the best places to develop and reach out to new contacts is at your former college or university. Typically, people love to connect over their pride and joy years at a university and share stories from different eras. The bond that runs from being an alumnus of a university goes deep and wide in all different fields and areas of the country. Take advantage of the next alumni gathering in your area and see whom you might connect with and grow your network.
LinkedIn: This is a great place to build your network with former colleagues, friends and potential new connections. The nice part of LinkedIn is the ease of reaching out and building your connections. This is done by posting, messaging, writing articles and joining groups. The tough part of LinkedIn is that these electronic connections are not always as strong as the personal connections, but they can be just as beneficial with the right amount of outreach.
Field Research: For anyone seeking a career change, field research is a great way to learn about the ins and outs of a potential new career. By meeting with industry professionals, you can start to grow your network in a new area and to see how these connections can help you build your pathway to a new career. You can talk to people in your field of interest and learn how they got there and about the training necessary to achieve your goal.
No matter which way you choose to increase your network, you need to be in service to your connections and it needs to be reciprocal. If you go solely on what you will get out of this relationship, your network will stagnate or wither from being selfish. When you go into a new relationship, it is important to go with a mindset of serving. You will be amazed at the opportunities that will grow from this attitude. The deeper and stronger your connections, the more you will see the opportunities for both of you!
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Written by: Mark Danaher, Career Retirement Coach
CEO & Founder, Career Retirement Coach at Retire to the Good Life. Request a free consultation with Mark.