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Debra Feldman

Become an Expert Networker

How to blend communication with interpersonal skills in four easy steps.

January 19, 2012
by Debra Feldman

In recent years social networking has exploded. Almost everyone has at least one professional online profile on LinkedIn. There are many platforms where you can register and then establish connections with fellow members based on shared interests, work histories or other common experiences. For example, there are networks of former employees, networks for school alumni and networks for those in the same profession. Now that it is easier to find someone who might be a valuable contact, there remains the same old challenge of introducing yourself and getting their attention. What do you say to encourage a meaningful dialogue leading up to getting information, asking for help or simply initiating a contact? Identify a need they have that you can address and volunteer help.

Networking is more of an art, a gift that blends communication and interpersonal skills and a skill you should develop given that about 80 percent of executive level jobs are filled through personal connections according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. In fact, networking could be labeled mission critical to career advancement today because what you know is not enough, success depends on who knows you and appreciates your potential contribution to their organization.

Networking is not just for job searching. Your contacts can serve as mentors, advisers and personal recruiters informing you of new opportunities. Networking opens doors and provides job leads long before they are announced publicly.

Tips on Growing Your Networking Skills

Here are a few key ways to increase your networking skills and know-how.

  1. Establish both strategic and practical networking expectations. Approach business networking as you would the construction of a sound, reliable technical network architecture or a solidly grounded financial system. Have a vision and develop your network by identifying who you want to meet, what you’d like out of specific interactions and how to prioritize networking activities. Initiate your network the same way as you would launch a complex project. Break the process into manageable and measurable steps.
  2. Set networking goals and objectives. Why are you connecting? What can you offer these new contacts? Build successful business relationships in the same manner as you create and keep personal relationships. While much of the form and content of the interactions differ between these two types of interactions, they do share some common characteristics like depth, commitment, value, frequency, credibility, trustworthiness, etc. Just because networking is for business purposes it doesn’t necessarily eliminate the emphasis on good manners, being empathetic and paying careful attention to the give and take of the relationship.
  3. Target networking efforts to maximize results. Allocate resources where results are most likely to be produced. Design a network that focuses on relationships that will further progress towards goals. Invest in relationships that will build connections to industry insiders. Form connections, share experiences and gain insights from others with similar goals, interests, beliefs, etc. Since impressions do count, stay in touch and be visible on the radar. Remember to acknowledge your contacts and send them handwritten “thank you” notes.
  4. Use time judiciously and be respectful of others. Seek out quality in relationships, not quantity of connections. Focus your efforts on assisting those who can appreciate you. Fewer reliable, productive contacts are better.

Conclusion

You will know that you have a strong network and have communicated your value effectively when your contacts reach out to you for help and with leads to new career opportunities.

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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 Networking Purposefully™ and expediting stalled job searches connects candidates directly to decision-makers, not HR.