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Design and Build Your Network

Here's how.

October 16, 2008
by Debra Feldman

The time to create the right connections is before, during and after you want a new job — before to get early inside leads, during to learn about current and planned unadvertised opportunities and after to bring a steady flow of fresh ideas to your organization and maintain contact with your network.

Harvey Mackay, author of Swim With the Sharks, is famous for having said, "Dig your well before you're thirsty." This rule applies to successful, proactive senior accounting and financial executives as well. Often very accomplished individuals find themselves up a creek without a paddle because they didn't develop and nurture connections with their colleagues, peers, mentors and industry figures who have their own connections.

The best way to land a new job is to access unannounced leads from contacts with knowledge about restructurings, expansions, budgets, retirements and mergers. Yes, it's a networking connection that builds credibility for you.

Today's great leaders not only have the skills and talent, but they also have strong interpersonal abilities and ties to connected people that others also know and respect. Connections are important and it is never too late to make new ones. Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, says he blends his business and social relationships, combining his personal life and career to spend all his time in the company of those he likes best.

Why Networking Is Key to Success

Let me provide an example from among my clients. John was a vice president and a very accomplished engineer. Being analytical, private, contemplative, quiet, highly organized and somewhat resistant to change, he never reached out even to his immediate co-workers to involve them on a warm, personal level.

While his business relationships were always cordial, he kept his socializing to the bare minimum of required attendance at company events. In so doing, he missed out on the informal buzz within the organization like unpublicized opportunities and specific recommendations from his peers and associates who could have given him more exposure and helped him move up the ladder. He was caught totally by surprise when a pink slip landed on his desk — something his colleagues knew long before he did owing to their connections.

When his company was acquired, John received a severance package commensurate with his status and started out on his job search. He put together an impressive resume detailing his achievements and began distributing it along with applications to posted jobs that seemed suitable. No bites. On the other hand, his colleagues had found jobs within the newly-combined operation "through personal contacts, not HR." John correctly observed that some of his less experienced associates were not laid off because of whom they knew. In other words, merit alone was not enough to save his job from being eliminated during the merger. Had other vulnerable employees pulled strings and used their connections to save their jobs? You betcha! Could John have done the same? A resounding "yes!"

Conclusion

It is never too late to Network Purposefully. Start today to find those you need to know and target introductions from which develop thriving and productive relationships. You have to build opportunities through internal promotions and transfers. Successful people put a premium on establishing and growing true relationships that are of equal if not greater worth. It's about the interpersonal relationships as well as being outstanding at doing "your job."

In today's highly competitive and risk-adverse hiring climate, it is much more who you know, and who knows that you are trustworthy, that will help you land that lucrative offer. In fact, the more well-connected individuals who know about your interest in finding a new opportunity, the faster you are going to find your next position. And once you're there, you can draw on your network to discover better solutions, identify new resources, find experts and yes, even, just commiserate with.

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© Debra Feldman, 2008

Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz™, a nationally-recognized expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic, and customized senior level executive job search campaigns, banishing barriers that prevent immediate success. Her gift for cold calling, executed with high energy and savvy panache, connects candidates directly to decision makers, not HR. Network Purposefully™ with the JobWhiz, and compress your job search into mere weeks, using groundbreaking techniques soon to be profiled in Forbes magazine and featured in an upcoming syndicated television series. In addition to writing columns and conducting workshops for several revered professional associations, Debra provides career guidance to alumni of top-tier business schools. Contact Debra at www.JobWhiz.com to expedite your executive ascent.