Clients come to me for Career Advice and to get help with Career Management. The one thing I tell them that disturbs them more than any other advice is this:
‘You need to network more and get active within your networks. The lead up to Christmas is a great time to do this.’
I have tried hard to find alternative words to describe this activity. But no matter what I call it, and whether they like it or not, networking is key in a career development or career management strategy.
To convince you about the benefits of networking, here are a few of my ideas, followed with the best way to network at this time of the year, and give you some tips for networking to get you started.
What Are The Benefits Of Networking?
Networking is an opportunity to learn. You can get access to a lot of information that might not otherwise be easy to come by. You can learn about potential employers and organisations.
Networking keeps you visible and connected to a range of people who could potentially act as door-openers to future opportunities.
You might find out about potential job openings that will be coming up in the future.
You might get introduced to others who are in your industry or in related industries.
I have been told by a number of recruiters, that as many as 70% – 80% of job placements go to people who know people, either someone in the hiring organisation, or someone who knows someone who is hiring. And this makes sense when you think about it. It’s much easier to be confident hiring someone who you have some connection with, as opposed to someone who you don’t know anything about. This is especially true if the connection comes with a recommendation about a person’s performance and personality.
You never know what might be coming up in your workplace and a wide range of connections might come in handy.
What’s The Best Way To Network At This Time Of The Year?
Despite the fact that many people claim to be busy at this time of year, a lot of the busy activity is social. People enjoy socialising at this time of year. It’s a natural thing to do. So it won’t look out of the ordinary or contrived for you to make contact with past colleagues and managers for a catch-up.
You can keep the conversations casual and make them a genuine ‘What have you been doing?’ or ‘How have things been going?’ This way you wont feel awkward about networking.
This might well remove some of the anxiety you might be feeling about the whole thing.
Two pieces of advice:
Keep it simple
Keep the conversations light
This is not the time to ask for help or anything else. You are just re-igniting a connection.
How to Get Started
Go through your connections and make a list of 5-10 people who you’d like to connect with. Be strategic about who makes the list.
Get in touch and suggest a coffee meet up or a drink after work. Make it easy for them.
For those of you who don’t know what to talk about, prepare 4-5 ice-breaker questions that you can use to get things moving. E.g.
How has the year gone for you?
Where do you feel that you have been successful or made significant runs on the board?
What have you learnt along the way?
And don’t forget the genuine interest in what they are doing over the holidays.
Once you have re-established the connection, put a reminder in your diary to follow up next year in order to keep the conversations live.
Networking has got a lot of bad press because most of us have met people who want to use relationships for their own ends. And like me, some of you may have been to ‘speed networking’ events where you have to collect the most business cards that you can in the shortest time possible. These fall at the awful end of the spectrum and they deserve the bad press that they get.
Keeping in touch with people is never a one-way transaction where you are the one who benefits most. Get in the habit of helping others where you can. Networking gives you an opportunity to share what you know and open doors for others.
Make introductions into your networks as well. I’m a big fan of giving wherever you can and don’t treat relationships as transactional relationship at all.
Your Action Steps
Make a list of 5-10 people and set up a Christmas catch up
Prepare some ice-breaker questions.
Follow up in the New Year when back at work
Call me to book in an appointment for Career Management advice and for ways to manage your career more strategically.