This is “The Power of Networking”, section 20.2 from the book Communication for Business Success (Canadian Edition) (v. 1.0).
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There is some wisdom in the saying that it’s who you know that brings success in getting a job. Consider the following:
What exactly is networking? In its simplest terms, it is the process of engaging others in helping you reach an objective. Three words in this definition deserve a closer look:
The process of networkingThe process of engaging others in helping you reach an objective. involves three basic phases: prospect identification and management, making contact, and follow-up.
The first phase involves identifying whom you should be speaking to and pinpointing the people who can introduce you to them. This is like the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon applied to your own life. Whom do you need to speak to? That really depends on your objectives. If you are trying to learn about an occupation, it can be just about anyone involved with that field. If you are in the process of trying to land an internship or a job, you want to reach the person who will make the hiring decision.
Your objective also defines how you get started with your networking. In the first case, you might want to start with people you met at an industry conference; in the job-specific case, you’ll want to think about whom you know in that company or who might know someone in that company. If you don’t have any contacts who fit that description, whom do you know who lives in the town in which the company is based or in a nearby town?
Your success in this phase of networking will be driven by the quality of the candidates (those who can directly influence your ability to reach your objectives) as well as the quantity (those who will lead you to the most contacts). This is why there is no such thing as a bad contact.
As important as having contacts is your ability to access those contacts when you need to. That is where contact management comes into play. Don’t be caught wishing you could call someone you met three weeks ago…if you could only remember what you did with their business card! There are countless ways to keep track of contacts, from writing names in an address book, to keeping a Rolodex, to using a computer-based contact management system os simply an Excel spreadsheet. Choose a system you feel comfortable with—comfortable enough to use regularly. A sophisticated system that has all the bells and whistles is no good to you if you can’t use it.
Let technology help you in this endeavour. Your computer, PDA, or smartphone probably has features for capturing contact information and retrieving it based on keywords, and most will even connect with your calendar for scheduling and reminders. Consider Web-based applications such as those offered by SuccessHawk (http://www.successhawk.com) and networking sites focused on professional networking, such as LinkedIn. Whatever your choices, invest the time to learn to use them well; you’ll be very glad you did.
Building a network requires consistent work, and a strong network will take time to achieve. That is why we recommend you start building your professional network now—even early in your college career. Your network should include anyone who might have a connection that will help: family, friends, neighbours, past and present coworkers, bosses, people you met through associations and clubs (especially business associations), alumni from your college, and acquaintances you have met via online networking.
When you capture your contact data, use relevant keywords to help you search your database and shape your contact activity. One of the most overlooked pieces of information that you should be sure to capture is the source of the contact. That’s what turns a “cold call” into a “warm call”—and it helps engage the prospect. If a friend introduced you, be sure to note that friend’s name; if you met at a party, note the name of the host and the occasion; if you met at a conference, note the conference and date. You should also use other keywords so that you can quickly find the contacts that will be most effective for each of your objectives; keywords might describe the area of specialization, organization membership, or type of contact (family, friend, colleague, etc.).
Being in the right place at the right time has much less to do with luck than with the art of personal contact. Contacts are everywhere, and you don’t know when you might turn one to your advantage. You may feel a little awkward following these tips at first, but with practice you will become quite adept at meeting new people and adding them to your network.
What you say in your networking calls or e-mails will depend largely on the objective of your networking effort. (Is it to learn about an occupation or industry? Seek a job-shadowing opportunity? Ask for a job?) But some networking basics and elements of etiquette apply to all contacts:
Much of the success of your networking efforts depends on what you do after you’ve hung up after a call or received an e-mail reply. The first step is to thank your contact for his or her help. Do this right away; any thank you after twenty-four hours of your contact can be considered late. Find a reason (not just an excuse) to keep in touch with people in your network. If you read an article people in your network would be interested in, send them the link. If you run across a problem one of your contacts might help you with, don’t be shy—give him or her a call to ask for help. If you meet someone you think a contact would like, make introductions. Send a follow-up note of thanks to a person who gave you a particularly productive lead. Let him or her know what you were able to accomplish. People like to know they are on a successful team. Finally, if a person in your network asks you for help, do what you say you will do.