Networking for busy women

Networking for busy women

As I move towards the end of my current period of gainful employment, the subject of networking is very much on my mind. I recently read somewhere (possibly somewhere in the thick file on “How To Get A New Job In A Recession”* given to me earlier this week by my appointed outplacement consultant) that 80% of all jobs are obtained through contacts and networking.

[* It isn’t actually called that. But it ought to be.]

Since word has leaked out that I’m leaving, I’ve had a lot of calls and emails which all have a similar theme and that is, and this is a direct quote:

“Getting a new job shouldn’t be a problem for you with your network.”

I’m not actually sure as yet how true that will prove to be, as the one job for which I am currently in the pipeline has come my way via a recruiter – although it has certainly been very useful in the six interviews I’ve had to date to be able to indicate that yes, I know this person, that organisation, that report, that news story, that network and so on. But, if this job doesn’t come off for me, I know that networking is going to become a key part of Cleo World this autumn.

And that will be OK for me given that getting a new job will effectively become my job, so maintaining my network will be a regular daily activity – but how do you do it when you already have a job, a life, a family and a myriad of other calls on your time?

Yes, networking can be time consuming – but I also think of it as the kind of thing that is useful in terms of keeping the wheels of one’s life, career and health moving along. An analogy might be – where do we find the time to go to the gym, or undertake some other “worthy” but time consuming pastime? For example, people frequently ask me where I find the time to read. To which my response is – we find the time for all sorts of things if we feel that we must, or perceive that they are important and beneficial in one way or another. So I would fit networking into that category; we will make time for it if we truly want to.

(To learn more about networking whilst reading (See? Multi-tasking), check out Steven D’Souza’s book, “Brilliant Networking” in the recommended reading link above.)

I’d also note that it depends on one’s understanding of the word “networking”. I suspect that, for some, it’s viewed as an organised activity, such as an event arranged by one of the many professional groups out there, such as the European Professional Women’s Network – which has a purposeful, self-described networking component built in. So, absolutely – for many people, adding on their attendance at an event to the end of their working day will feel like an extra thing to do and one for which they may lack the time. I could easily be out at some kind of a professional event pretty much every evening if I accepted all the invitations which come my way.

But I would rather go to fewer events but make more of my time at them; I also work very hard to keep in touch with and nurture, for want of a better word, the network that I do have, which is both enjoyable and far less time consuming than attending events. Additionally, I make use of other types of networking, by keeping in touch with people more casually and using on-line tools like Facebook and Linked-In. It’s also helpful to think about what networking you can do during your normal day – can you meet people for coffee, for example? What about breakfast events? The “Starbucks Effect” seems to be a growing trend, picked up on in this article from The Glass Hammer entitled “Coffee is the new lunch”.

Finally, here are some networking tips courtesy of “My Mentor” creator Emberin’s newsletter – reproduced with thanks.

Top 10 Networking Tips for Success

Written by Lisa Butler of Paragon & Associates
Author of Networking Exposed

Networking is important for business, career, leadership and personal success. Successful networkers know that the true nature of networking is developing and maintaining genuinely helpful relationships with others, with a focus on helping them, not you. You should not be selling when you are networking! The top ten tips for networking success are:

Tip 1 – Recognise the true nature of networking and appreciate the value it offers in your business, career and personal life. Accepting that networking is about relationship building and building win-win alliances with others is the first step to networking success. Focus on helping others and you will undoubtedly reap the rewards.

Tip 2 – Be aware of the reasons that stop you from networking. Many people are hesitant to network – often due to negative perceptions about what networking is and its value. Be aware of what stops you, and identify strategies to help you to have the right mindset and get the value networking offers.

Tip 3 – You need to network strategically. Consider why you are networking, and how it will help you to achieve your business and personal goals. This will enable you to more effectively customize and ensure you are networking with the right people, in the right places and in the right way. This focus helps you to save time and gain greater value from your networking effort.

Tip 4 – Have a good system for monitoring and recording your list of network contacts. It is important to recognise that effective networking is more about how you keep in contact with people and look after them, than it is about attending events. A good system should enable you to easily update contact details and be an easy reference tool when you need to find relevant contacts.

Tip 5 – Be genuinely interested in other people. Sounds simple, but it requires effective communication skills (the ability to ask good questions which engage people, and to listen!).

Tip 6 – Treat everyone you meet with the utmost respect and give them 100% of your attention. Never underestimate the networking value of people you meet, as it may come back to haunt you.

Tip 7 – Be able to talk about what you do (when asked!) in a way which is relevant, interesting and understandable to the other person. This requires you to tailor your response and focus on providing information which will enable further conversation’.

Tip 8 – Identify relevant and helpful reasons to continue contact with people you meet. Be on the lookout for opportunities to follow up with people, preferably in ways that will help them not you. It is far easier to follow up with someone when you are doing something worthwhile for them. It is also very powerful.

Tip 9 – Prepare to network. Before you attend an event or even just a catch up with a contact, consider your objectives, who you will meet, the topics of conversation, questions you can ask, research their companies or industries, and generally be up to date. Also consider how you can best achieve your objectives through your behaviour and the impressions you want to create.

Tip 10 – Enjoy it. The most effective networkers tend to be the people who find enjoyment from their networking. Other people are drawn to happy, positive people, and it shows in your demeanour and language. A positive mindset is an important element of networking success.

I would also add my own personal “Tip 11” to this list – do what you say you’re going to do. If you commit to sending someone an article or providing them with some other piece of information: make sure you do so, as soon as possible – and ideally within 48 hours of making the commitment. This, for me, is part of the “safe pair of hands” component of my personal brand and I believe that it makes networking a richer and more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Let’s hope that my networking will pay off for me now, as I gaze down the barrel of my huge and inadvertent life change.

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