NETWORKING is the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization! – Adam Small
One of the biggest mistakes that professionals can make is to actively network ONLY when they’re looking for a job. As an HR leader, it’s important to encourage employees to actively network to develop meaningful connections inside and outside of the company. The Department of Labor, reports that networking accounts for at least 69% of all annual hires. Networking can help you identify candidates in other departments, or reveal a stretch opportunity for yourself. Your net worth is only as good as your network. Have you noticed that the top leaders have some of the most extensive networks?
Maximize your Face-to-Face Time
Face-to-face meetings are preferable for building trust and credibility between colleagues. It gives you the opportunity to read their body language, assess their facial expressions and often allows for more social interaction. A colleague at Lego relayed that the company hosts “Speed Networking” events to allow employees from different departments get to know each other. Pairs spend five minutes introducing themselves and looking for connections on where and how they might be able to help one another. You may feel you are too busy to attend these events, but they act as a nice break from your computer and you will learn something every time you meet someone if you open yourself up.
Make a Personal Connection
It may sound trite, but it’s important to crisply introduce yourself (background, goals, etc.) and establish a rapport. Research the person on LinkedIn and ask a series of questions to learn more about them. If appropriate, ask about their families and outside interests. Be authentic and bring your full personality to the conversation. People want to do business with people that they like! Reveal something about yourself that the connection can relate to. Networking conversations can go bad quickly if the person can tell you are more interested in gaining information like contact names than genuinely learning about them. Remember, you may do business in three weeks, three months or three years from now, so focus on building a personal connection that will last.
In my professional life, it has been the connections, relationships, and trust, coupled with a LOT of hard work, that have accelerated my career. I do some of my best work in unchartered spaces by building relationships, creating teams and garnering trust in situations where there is none. Some of my strongest connections started by a football field, where hours on the sidelines watching practices and sharing our lives evolved into deep trust and productive business relationships.
Social network sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter allow you to stay connected with hundreds of people. But it’s important to be deliberate and thoughtful in how you follow-up- sending out mass e-mail blasts to your contact list is downright tacky. Send pertinent articles, connect them to potential business and set up time to meet for coffee when you have a new idea to discuss.
Networking is ultimately about who you know, and who knows you. Companies need to help their employees network and achieve their potential if the company is to grow. How does your company encourage employees to connect with each other? Do you take the time to meet people just to get to know them and expand your network? I look forward to your comments.