I did some networking today. I reached out to Sharlyn Lauby, the HR Bartender, and she was gracious enough to call and chat. (You need to put her on your MUST read list. You will find out why she is on most of, if not all, the lists of the best.) We chatted about our businesses, our blogs, what we are trying to accomplish. (This all developed from a post of hers that talked about being willing to share, even with other consultants. A view I hold as well.) In the course of the conversation we talked about people who “network” with us. I put network in quotes because, in reality, that is not what people are doing. They call us because they are looking for a job and someone told them that we “know everyone.” They come looking for job leads or names. We are gracious and help them out and off they go. Often we never hear from them again or sometimes we will get some follow up basically to the tune of “have you found anything for me yet?” Then one day we hear they got a job. So we drop them a note and say congratulations. Some times we get a note back, often we do not. Seldom do we ever get a note saying “I have gone to work. Here is where you can contact me. Thanks for your help. Now what can I do for you.” Often we hear “Oh, I am sorry, now that I have gone to work I just don’t have time to network.” (Is this sounding like a rant?)
Well “I don’t have time to network” should be banished from every HR professional’s lexicon. Networking is an ESSENTIAL TOOL of the HR professional. One of the goals of a true professional is to be a resource to their organization for which they work. You have to be scanning the environment, you have to understand the legal and legislative landscape, you have to know social trends and compensation trends all so you can support the strategic goal of the organization. That is tough to do all by yourself. But there are people out their that know this stuff. There are people out there that are smarter than you. And it is important for you to know who they are and meet them. And they come in very handy if you are looking for work.
Here are my tips for effective networking:
- Everytime you ask for help offer some in return. Do NOT be just a Taker. Be a Giver. At the end of a conversation ask the question “How can I help you?” (Hint: Mean it!)
- If you are job hunting, be specific. What are you looking for? Don’t just say “Do you know of any openings?” My response may be “Well I saw a Now Hiring sign at Panda Express.” (True) If you employed and are looking for contacts, suppliers, or information be clear about what you are looking for.
- Try to meet someone face-to-face. Just because you have connected with them in Linked In, or Facebook or Twitter does not mean you are networking, as I wrote in Networking is More than just adding a contact on social media.
- Follow up. FOREVER. This does not mean that you have to write every day, or once a month, or even once a quarter. But there needs to be some consistant follow up. Think of it as a “drip marketing” campaign. You can even rank your contacts as A, B or C. The “A” contacts you may want to reach out to quarterly. The “B”s every six months and the “C”s on an annual basis. This is based on the importance to you that you keep in touch with them. And you don’t have to write a book. A one line email, a birthday card, a short hand written note or even a voice mail is sufficient just to make contact.
- Sharlyn and I agree everyone needs to read Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone and I will add Harvey Mackay’s Swim With the Sharks. These two books are required reading.
Well I will bring my rant to an end. There are many more tips and many experts on networking that are availble to you. Find what works for you. But if you have aspirations of the “C” suite, or of consulting or of just being able to find a job when you find yourself on the street then you had better learn to make networking a life long practice.
Tell me what you think. (BTW, one good way to start networking with people is to leave comments on their blogs. Who knows they might even initiate the contact. Unless of course you are Anonymous.)