Building Your Network

You know you need it, but have you done it.  In today’s world, the majority of new opportunities (jobs, business prospects, poker games, you name it) are not published.  You need a strong network in place to make sure you are, at minimum, aware of the opportunity . . . if not considered for the opportunity.

Many people think, “gosh, I hate picking up the phone and asking for help finding a job.”  It doesn’t feel comfortable and in fact, it shouldn’t.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now – Chinese Proverb

If you wait until you need a job or business contact to reach out to someone you know, you are missing the point.  Back in First Grade, Sister Maria Tina taught me that “the only way to have a friend is to be one”.  Now some of you might say, wasn’t that a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson . . . but I learned long ago not to question Sister Maria Tina.  Both she and Ralph are correct – the best way to build your network of resources, it to be a resource to others first.

Today . . . literally, today, someone in your geographical area and in your field of expertise is getting a job based upon (a) knowing about the opportunity and (b) getting the right referral.  Even if the job search is being conducted by an Executive Recruiter, a large part of it is connected to their network of contacts.

If you go on Linkedin today and search for a job, the website will help you identify how you might already be connected to the H.R. Recruiter or Hiring Manager.  They believe that having a referral will increase the likelihood that you are considered for an interview and possible offered that position.  Just think about how much your chances improve when you have twice as many networking contacts . . . or three times as many networking contacts.  By building a strong network, you can dramatically improve your reach into the job market.

So how do you get started?

First, don’t go out to Linkedin and start blindly approaching people to join your network.  A strong network is a powerful tool and the people you are reaching out to do not want to dilute the value of their network so it is important that you position yourself as to how you could be helpful to them.  Here are some ideas on how to do exactly that:

When you meet a new business contact, reach out afterwards on Linkedin to say that you enjoyed meeting them and wanted to stay connected.

Find a cause that you believe in and volunteer your time.  You will find others who are actively involved and you can connect with them as well.

Attend a networking event in your area and/or in your area of expertise.  If you search for them you will find that there are a number of organizations that are designed to do exactly that – bring people with common interests together.

Follow the organizations on Linkedin that are of interest to you and/or are in your area of expertise . . . then, participate in any ongoing discussions in a meaningful and productive way.

When someone in your network asks for help . . . don’t let Sister Maria Tina down, give them a helping hand.  You will be surprised on how much they will appreciate it.  Who knows, there may be a time when you need help from them or help from their network.

Ultimately, the advice is this . . . don’t wait to start building your network.  Do it in a thoughtful manner and give it time to blossom.  If you do so, you will be able to reap the rewards of helping others and of receiving help from them as well.