Archive for December, 2009

Networking Goals for 2010

If one of your goals for 2010 involves a new job, obviously  building a stronger network will get you closer to this goal than any other strategy. But how can you work something as general as  “Improving My Networking “ into any goals or resolutions you have for the start of the new year? I can’t recall the exact source where I first heard this, but I’ve always used an SMA criteria when setting goals.  Goals need to be Specific, Measurable and Realistic. I also heard Career Coach Peter Weddles of Career Fitness  make the following point-What gets measured gets done. With those points in mind, let’s examine establishing networking goals for 2010.

Contacts.  I break this down to a daily level in my 12 daily steps to improve your networking-Make at least 2 contacts per day that are slightly beyond your normal comfort range.  You won’t improve your networking until you expand your comfort zone in reaching out to others. Place this atop of your to do lists, day planner’s etc.  If daily goals don’t work, set them weekly or monthly. The important thing is to have them as some type of scheduled activity. Monitor the end of each period how well you achieved them. If you fail, don’t give up. Try moving from daily to weekly or some other adjustment.

LinkedIn.  Among many other great services, LinkedIn can provide you with a measuring tool for networking goals. Look at the total number of connections you have now with your profile. Then review the profiles of colleagues you know with strong networks. Review their profiles for content, connection numbers as well as groups belonged to. Set a goal for what numbers you would like to have by the end of 2010. Then give yourself incremental numbers to hit each month in order to attain that goal.

Information Interviews. This includes anything from a 15-minute coffee meetings to full appointments at someone’s office. Trust the feedback I have received from countless nervous networkers over my career about this topic. Most are amazed at how easy these are to schedule once you start asking for them.  If you’re currently not scheduling any, start slowly with a monthly goal of 2-3. Work toward a meeting each week, then expand from there. If you’re already scheduling them regularly, set a goal for the amount to increase to. Can you make 10-15 per week? That may seem like a reach, but shooting for it will result in more contacts than being content with 3-5 per week.

Networking Events.  Handle in a strategy similar to information interviews; if not doing any slowly work in. If you attend some regularly, expand your list.

Depending on their personality, many job seekers find one forum-either the information interview or the networking event- much more beneficial than the other.  If that’s the case, do what works best for you, provided you continue expanding your network.

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Challenge to the Nervous Networker-Attend a Holiday Networking Event

Throughout my years in career services I have warned job seekers about the dangers of assuming nothing can happen in a job search from Thanksgiving through December 31. For the most concise explanation I’ve ever read on why this assumption is false, read the following blog post by Wright Management Vice President Ralph Haas.

One of the many great points Ralph makes made me think about the job seekers that struggle with networking. For many of these individuals, the networking activity that frightens them most is large networking events.  If you come from fields where you’ve never needed to attend such events, the task is more daunting than cold calling or reaching out to people you have not spoken to in a while. Yet many remain aware that to maximize their job search efforts, they need to grow their networks. Events providing immediate access to large numbers of people present a great opportunity to do so.

Ralph indicates that within the holiday spirit, such events take on a more relaxed atmosphere. This could make such an event a perfect setting for someone attending one for the first time. Not only will people be more approachable, you may find to your surprise that people will start conversations with you.

Practice your elevator (30-second introduction speech) and load up on business cards.  Find a friend to go with for moral support, but agree to avoid the temptation to hang with each other the entire time. Separate and work the event in thirty minute intervals, then meet back to compare notes. Set a goal to come up with three to five potential follow up meetings-either in person or via telephone. Ralph recommends using such events mostly to arrange follow up meetings instead of seeking referrals on site. 

I have always liked Woody Allen’s quote attributing eighty percent of success to just showing up. Meeting people to discuss opportunities will expose you to more possibilities. You won’t find these sitting home at your computer. Plus, contacts can lead in positive, unexpected directions. This past Spring I attended an informal job fair set up around a happy hour. The goal was to let folks meet employers in a less formal setting. As I started speaking with a recent seminar attendee, I noticed  another from a different seminar session. As I introduced them, I remembered they had similar backgrounds. They connected quite well. While neither found an employer of interest at the fair, they have remained in touch and are currently considering a consultant partnership. That wasn’t anything they went to the event looking for, but certainly became a positive outcome each received from attending.

So use the holiday season to get your feet wet in the world of networking events. I think you’ll find they’re not as overwhelming as you first thought. Then you’ll have the confidence to attend more next year.