Network Now, Before You Need To
LinkedIn sent out a lot of emails this week, notifying people that they were in the top 10%, 5%, 1% most viewed profiles. LinkedIn probably did that to pump up their own volume, but you should take it as an inspiration to pump up the volume of your networking. Networking is a lot like weight loss (although not as hard). It is best done slowly, over a long time, with an eye toward your career goal. Networking doesn’t work well when you need to have a full-blown network in the next week (like getting into that dress your really want to wear to this weekend’s wedding–that is 2 sizes too small). I work with people who find themselves out of a job, or reorganized to a boss they can’t stand and they suddenly realize that their network is old and cold. Whereas people who find themselves in the same situation with a robust, active and varied network find jobs and opportunities MUCH faster.
Just for fun, look at your network on LinkedIn. Go to http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com/ and create a map of your network. LinkedIn lets you label the parts of your network according to professional groups–former job #1, professional group #1, school, etc. Look at your network map. If you needed a new job in the next six months, do you have contacts in the kinds of areas that would help? Here’s mine:
If you want to develop new skills or get a mentor–can you use your network to do it? When was the last time that you talked to most of the people in your network? This year? In the last five years? LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ provide you with easy and helpful tools to connect to people without much heavy lifting.
In LinkedIn, comment on posts in your groups (and get some groups if you don’t have any). Send a congratulatory message to people who get promotions. Respond to people’s blogs. Reach out with an offer to make connections for people when you notice that they start following a company where you know someone. Endorse people. Recommend people.
In Facebook, keep up with birthdays and let people know when you enjoy their posts. Like your friends’ business pages.
In Google+, comment on people’s posts, create circles, join, join, join.
Join Professional Groups. Think about where the next career opportunities are for you. Are you a project manager? Who knows of the project management positions as they open up? People who belong to PMI. Join and participate. Do you want to start a business? Where do the entrepreneurs go to get together? Find the groups who can open doors for you.
Volunteer. One of the best ways to get known and to get to know others is to volunteer. Most nonprofits have significant players in your community on their boards. Organizations who need your skills usually have people in them who can help you.
Be seen as an expert. We are lucky to live in a time when we can be seen as an expert through participation in virtual activities. You can write, join, comment, help and over time be seen as an expert. When you think of who you admire and who you think of as an expert and thought leader in your field, chances are you don’t ‘know’ that person from an in-person relationship. You know that person through his/her writing, speaking, participation in activities that you are also a participant.
Excuses. Whatever excuse you’re giving me as you read this, it doesn’t stack up at all to not having a good network when you need one. Do JUST ONE THING a week to improve your network. At the end of a year you will have a network you can use to improve your career–without having to work very hard. The last thing you want to do when you need your network is to start from (almost) scratch.