Networking for the Advancement Game


Advancement. It’s on everyone’s mind. Many of my coaching sessions include a discussion about this topic. Yet, while advancement is such a concern, I am stunned by the number of times the notion of networking as a means toward advancement is viewed as an “ah-ha” moment.

What I mean is, I regularly hear young professionals talking among themselves sharing this “newfound wisdom”. The phrase is usually something like:

“I wish I had worked at networking from the beginning.”

If you are effectively networking you gain these positives:

1. Networking allows a faster path to advancement.

2. Networking creates name recognition.

3. Networking helps bridge the gap if you’re coming from a non-traditional background (junior college, trade school, military, etc.).

4. Networking will surprise you. You will be amazed at how generous other people are with their time and how willing people can be to help you out.

What is even more interesting, is the sense that despite all of the social media opportunities that abound, good old-fashioned face-to-face networking is still recognized as being vital. Bright, smart professionals who are on a fast track use it masterfully.

Keith Ferrazzi has a great book titled “Never Eat Alone” that delves deeply into “quality networking”. If you are not familiar with this work, do yourself a favor and buy the book.

Here are my favorite recommendations for networking:

1. Overcome the fear. Possibly one of the biggest road blocks to successful networking is the fear of doing it. Whether this fear is rooted in low self-esteem or an introverted personality, you have to work to identify the source of the fear and work past it.

2. Make the time. I’ve heard many folks argue that networking takes too much time. Well, there is no doubt time is a big factor. There is a term coined by an old friend; ‘return on invested time (ROIT)’. You need to pre-determine the potential ROIT. Not all networking events are created equal. Large, industry focused groups can be good, but those actually require prior planning to identify selected targets.

Conversely, I find the one-on-one meeting usually works best. At a one-on-one, you are less likely to be interrupted and the discussions can be private and more free flowing. The bonus with the one-on-one is that it can be scheduled quickly and is time sensitive.

3. Pay it forward. Even the most junior professional can begin to build a base of contacts which you can share. Be active in making introductions for people. Networking is not only about you. It is about always being on the lookout for connecting new people to one another.

4. Be protective. While paying it forward, you still need to covet the high value contacts. Respect their time and reputation. Only give out their name when you detect there might be a really good fit. Doing this will earn you a reputation as a quality networker, that is, someone whom others can trust.

5. Build trust. Speaking of trust, work hard to build and maintain that trust. If you are ever told something ‘in confidence’, keep it that way. Share only with those who have been given permission to receive. Let the provider of the information dictate how and when it gets shared. Keith Ferrazzi is also an advocate for building trusting relationships. See his other book “Who’s Got Your Back”.

6. Add value. Be a giver of value, not just a taker. Of course there will be times when you are seeking opportunities or information, but find ways to give too. Perhaps the biggest chance you will get to add value is when you have valuable contact information to share (as in #3 above). Value also comes from sharing industry expertise, ideas, and experience.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]If career advancement is a concern, be sure you have a strong, viable approach to building and using a network of other professionals. [/shareable]

I hope these ideas will propel your networking plan into high gear.

[reminder]Leave a comment and share ways you work at networking.[/reminder]

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