Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Jumpstart your networking – building a networking foundation

Posted in job search and career development, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on March 22, 2010

To date I have posted 48 installments in my ongoing series Social Networking and Business and while they collectively offer a fairly wide-ranging best-practices resource for business networking, they still leave some significant gaps. We have just seen the start of Spring and I have been thinking of beginnings and new beginnings. I decided to add a new sub-series on jumpstarting your networking and with a job search focus, with new beginnings in mind.

One of the core principles I develop my approach to business networking around is that:

“Social networking is not about who you know. It is about who your direct contacts know and who they know, and who they in turn know, in an expanding but reachable circle of potential direct connections.”

I list this as my third principle of good social networking and my ongoing experience has validated this basic approach many times. But good social networking and business networking do start with the people you already know who can then help you reach out to new contacts and possibilities.

This posting is about taking that first step and networking effectively with your current contacts to build a networking foundation that you can build out from.

• Who do you know?
• Start with people you know at and through work. This can mean colleagues at your level and in your functional area who you work with and see most every day. If you are still working, and certainly if you see potential for layoffs or downsizing start to collect contact information from people from this group. Now add in people from your functional area who may be higher or lower than you on the table of organization, who you have shared a cordial relationship with.
• Who are your colleagues at this business who you work with, but who are in different functional areas and perhaps at different levels on the table of organization? This would include colleagues who have been your in-house clients who you help support in their professional functions with your contributions.
• Can you get a company directory, and either in print or electronic form?
• Do you know people professionally through having worked with this firm? That can mean outside consultants, suppliers, distributors and clients and people you have dealt with in most any role in your employer’s value chain.
• If you are no longer with the firm, who do you know who can help you connect back to other colleagues and contacts there? Can one of them get you a copy of the company directory and help you reconnect more widely with your now former colleagues?

This only begins with your most recent job and foundation contacts you can make there in jumpstarting your networking.

• Who do you still have ways to reach out to from previous jobs you have held?
• Who do you know and can reach out to through alumni associations and other avenues to schools you have attended?
• Are you a member of any professional associations?
• Do you attend a church, synagogue, mosque or other religious organization that would bring you into an ongoing community of social contacts, who may be able to share networking leads with you?
• Remember your neighbors in this and others who you primarily know socially.
• What other groups and associations do you have access to for this? That can mean parents of other children your children go to school with and any number of other groups, formal or informal in nature.

Build a list of the places and groups to reach out to and a time table and schedule for doing so. Organization really helps here. And follow through on this. Networking is the single most powerful resource you have available for finding and landing that next great job – not online jo search engines, not recruiters, not jobs listings found in professional journals or professional organization web sites, or in newspapers.

And this brings me to the great barrier to actually doing this – our own uncertainties and our own internal resistance to reaching out this way for help.

• Millions of good people are out there looking for work right now and through no fault or deficiency of any sort of their own.
• It is important that you not look at this as a failure on your part if you are looking too, and certainly if you were a valued employee as proven by good performance reviews for the contributions you made to your former employer.
• Start with the people you are most comfortable with and practice.
• Read through Structuring an Effective Elevator Pitch and start working to build yours, and try it out on people you know who would give you candid feedback on how effectively it conveys who you are and what you seek in a next job.
• Read References and Recommendations too, as you want to start building your list of potential references as soon as possible while your business relationships with these people are still fresh in your mind and in theirs.
• And remember there are learning curves in this and that you will get both more effective and more comfortable in your networking as you do it.
• Now as you build your current contacts networking foundation, reach out beyond it to people you do not know who can help you find opportunities you would not already know about.
• Build your foundation and follow the networking laws ands principles from there, as cited above.
• And don’t reinvent the wheel in this. I offer series of postings here in this blog on Effective Job Search and Career Development and on business social networking and there are a lot of outer resources available to you to tap into as well.

4 Responses

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  1. […] and business by Timothy Platt on March 24, 2010 In my first installment in this series, Jumpstart your networking – building to a networking foundation I emphasized the importance of throwing a wide net and of networking to all of your known contacts […]

  2. […] the first two postings in my Jumpstarting Your Networking series I wrote about building a networking foundation to build your job search campaign around and about keeping your networking in focus so your efforts effectively support your job search. […]

  3. Eric Mariacher said, on March 28, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Here are my 2 cents advices when growing your network.

    Grow your network while you don’t need it

    1st advice “Grow your network while you don’t need it”
    2nd advice “know why you want to network”
    3rd advice “get recommendations from current and past colleagues posted on your profile”
    4th advice “make heavy use of the Q&A feature (on LinkedIn) or post on forums”
    5th advice “never use standard boiler plate templates” when inviting people to connect
    6th advice/fact “The more connections you have, the more time you must spend”
    7th advice “join yahoo networking groups. You will learn a lot”
    8th advice “Read other 2 cents advices”
    9th advice “Do not forget other ways of networking”

    • Timothy Platt said, on March 28, 2010 at 4:14 pm

      Hi Eric and thanks for your comment.

      I have offered the same advice points in my various blog postings but it can be helpful to put a list like this together in one brief-statement formatted place. I particularly want to pick up on two of your points in my reply. First, I agree completely that you want to have a network in place when you need it for developing immediate benefit, or else you will waste time and opportunity, and momentum in your efforts getting up to speed. Second, I agree that you should network with a focus, knowing why you are networking and conducting your networking with your goals in mind.

      When you are developing and maintaining your network for possible future need, however, you do not necessarily know precisely why you may suddenly need this resource as the unexpected can always happen, both for type of need and for timing. This means maintaining a networking effort with flexibility in mind so that you can find and tap into the more focused activities when and as you see your needs coming into focus.

      Getting and maintaining references and recommendations, and maintaining networking contact with these people (your point 3) is certainly a background networking effort you should include a la point one. Yes, as per your point 6, more contacts and actually staying connected to them means more work – though there are more efficient ways to do this including more general distribution contact campaigns that do not have to look like undirected boilerplate (point 5). The key point I add here connects into everything I have been putting in this response so far – be organized and systematic and know why you are doing what you do, and how it fits into your overall planning. And as a final point I simply repeat your advice 9 idea – always look for new approaches to networking and connecting and to better understand how the people you want to reach are networking, and where they are doing this. Keep your approaches fresh and up to date.

      Thanks again, Tim Platt

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