Tuesday, 11 January 2011

New Year – Resolve to shape up your network!

January is usually the time we think about getting into shape, but what shape is your network in? Everyone knows that networking is important especially when some statics say that up to 60% of jobs are unadvertised.  I was thinking back to all the different ways I have found work in the past twenty years and the most interesting and unusual opportunities have always come as a result of someone I know or a recommendation.  The key to effective networking is to make sure you keep your network up to date rather than ignore it until you really need it.  One coaching client I’ve been working with, who recently was made redundant, realised that he hadn’t really been keeping his network up to date.  It was then a matter of reconnecting with people he used to work with, friends, alumni from his university through LinkedIn and Face book and reaching out to new people in other areas of his life.  The result after four months was a job offer that came via a lead from someone he had worked with 12 years ago supported by a recommendation from an  employee who was a good friend of one of his good friends. Networking should be an ongoing activity not something you do just when you’re looking for a job opportunity.

So let me share with you some resources to help you consider your network and feel more comfortable going out there and expanding it.

I found Tai Goodwin’s list of the top ten people you should have as part of your network very interesting - http://www.grb.uk.com/top-ten-for-your-network.0.html  It gave me the opportunity to revisit my own network and ask myself if I have all ten of these types of people. (I’m a connector by the way if you need to add one of those to your network.). It’s also a chance to go through your contact database and make sure it is current.  As Jo Parfitt and Jacqui Tillyard say in their e-book, Grow your own Network, “It is just as important to weed out the ones that no longer serve you.”

The Networking Effect by Tony Newton and Judith Perle is a book for anyone who ever said, "But I don't really like/feel comfortable/know how to network." It's all there - how to open and close a conversation, build rapport with people, think of what you can give as well as what you want to get, how to grow and expand your network, and be memorable. It builds on concepts from NLP to communication and presentation skills to Dale Carnegie's principles. Whether you're a recent graduate just starting out or a seasoned professional needing to up your game, this book provides valuable tips and ideas as well as interesting stories to help you remember what to do. The most valuable chapter for me, personally, was the one on how to follow up with people after meeting them. The discount code tne001 will get buyers a pre-launch 25% discount off the £8.99 cover price at www.TheNetworkEffect.co.uk until at least the end of January.

Finally, here are my Top Networking Tips
•     Maintain your network – send thank yous and follow-up regularly with anything that might be of interest to the person
•     Contact people personally, do not attempt to revive your network with a mass email – networking is a personal contact sport
•     Even if you do not know contacts for someone right away, take their information, it is funny how quickly you come across useful information
•     At events, help others be comfortable, find out what they are looking for, connect them with people you have already met
•     Spend more time asking questions about your contact and listening rather than talking entirely about yourself. The primary objective of networking should be to gain an understanding of others’ concerns and problems.
•     It’s the quality not the quantity that counts
•     Have fun- people are interesting, enjoy finding out about them and your network will stay active.