You have heard over and over the importance of networking, especially when preparing yourself for the work force. Educators go to extreme lengths to provide opportunities to rub shoulders with the experts.
Lou Adler, CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting and training firm, found in a study that “85% of critical jobs are filled via networking of some sort.” Wow. Wonder why those cold call interviews are coming up ineffective? We are in a different kind of world where connections reign supreme.
It’s critical to learn closely from professionals and build actual relationships. How effective are you in this process? Follow these steps to make sure you’re on track.
The Boy Scouts of America weren’t shooting in the dark when they developed this motto. There are two situations where networking takes place, one that is planned and one that isn’t. Certain principles apply to both–like having an online portfolio prepared, a polished resume drafted or if you’re feeling fancy make a business card. For the instances where it is planned, do your research and know who it is you are meeting. When the opportunity is spur of the moment, learn valuable questions that you might ask the individual that will help you to get to know them. Entrepreneur.com suggests this is the time to build a human connection.
Most professionals are busy people and don’t necessarily have a ton of time to sit and shoot the breeze. Make the time worth it between both parties. In an awesome Forbes article, the suggestion to set goals is brought up:
Don’t focus solely on your big picture goals. It’s important to set smaller, attainable goals that measure the success of each piece of your business, all of which feed the larger overall goals. “Landing two new clients this month” is not a networking goal. Even if that is your end game, set benchmarks relating directly to your networking efforts (like, “I will get 5 business cards at this luncheon”, or “I will set-up 2 coffee dates with new contacts for next week.”) Watch how, when applied to all branches of your business, these mini goals not only fuel your sense of constant accomplishment, but quickly add up to fulfilling those overarching goals.
This final step is YUGE. Maybe not as big as Donald Trump’s comb-over, but if you can master this you will be leagues ahead of others. Imagine you have had a successful encounter and the professional is interested in speaking with you in the future. Business card in hand, you head over to get a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy’s, and in the midst of the excitement, the card ends up in the trash with the receipt. Well I guess Charlie will have to go into the Chocolate Factory alone because you just lost your golden ticket.
Each person will have to find what works for them, but my suggestion: find a way to digitize this information so it works for you. Some will just add a contact in their phone and add the professional’s title so you can find them. This is what I have found effective:
Create a basic spreadsheet with Google Sheets (Excel works fine, but I use Drive for everything). Include the contact information directly from them or the business card and then add information that helps you in the future. Take note of where they live, where you met them and any notes that are helpful. These can be used in later interactions to show that you were listening and interested in them.
To summarize everything that you just read about:
- Be prepared
- Be effective
- Be organized
This stuff works and will set you apart from the many others competing for the same job. Give yourself this edge and learn to sharpen your networking skills. It takes practice, but you can do it. What are your thoughts? What have you done to become a networKING?